Gerald Pieper jailed minimum of three years for RWCC fraud

JAILED: Gerald Pieper leaving his sentencing hearing last week. He has been jailed for a minimum three years
JAILED: Gerald Pieper leaving his sentencing hearing last week. He has been jailed for a minimum three years



GERALD Pieper managed a quick glance at his wife before he was led away by two Corrective Services officers to begin a minimum three-year jail sentence for defrauding the Riverina Water County Council of $352,000.

Pieper, 56, was jailed on Tuesday in Wagga District Court after previously pleading guilty to six counts of misconduct in public office.

In his sentencing remarks, Judge Ross Letherbarrow said Pieper had committed the offences over 10 years while general manager of the county council.

He said the amount of money stolen by Pieper was substantial and the time of the offending lengthy.

The judge described Pieper's crimes as a serious breach of trust and a "multiplicity of dishonest acts".

On the point of general deterrence, Judge Letherbarrow said: "Those in authority must understand this type of behaviour will not be tolerated by the courts".

Pieper, who was a finance manager with the county council before being appointed to the top job in 1997, was sophisticated in the steps he took to prevent detection, the judge said.

The offences to which Pieper pleaded guilty began in early 2001.

The most serious crime in the judge's opinion was Pieper getting $115,830 deposited into his personal bank account in September, 2007.

Pieper disguised the payment as a sick leave payout.

In 2009, he benefited by $14,500 by having water connected to a property he owned at Euberta, and later had work done by a surveyor charged to RWCC.

In March, 2007, he transferred ownership of a Holden Statesman Caprice from RWCC to his own name and then sold it to a motor dealership for $48,338.

Pieper benefited by tens of thousands of dollars by conducting fraudulent transactions involving two other vehicles.

The court heard Pieper used his corporate card over 10 years to obtain $15,300 worth of goods and services, including glasses, Windsor Smith shoes and membership of the Murrumbidgee Turf Club.

Judge Letherbarrow noted five people who gave evidence before him last week of Pieper being a man of good character.

"Of course, no one knew of his offending at the time," Judge Letherbarrow said.

He said "good character" often allowed fraud offences to occur.

Judge Letherbarrow touched on Pieper's outstanding Australian football career, which included playing for NSW and coaching a number of representative teams.

Pieper played more than 400 senior games for the Wagga Tigers and his prowess earned him a place in Wagga's Sporting Hall of Fame.

The judge also referred to a pre-sentence report prepared by a Probation and Parole officer.

He said there was no direct evidence of Pieper showing remorse or any explanation as to why he committed the crimes.

Pieper spoke of not following the right processes and making mistakes, but did not elaborate.

Judge Letherbarrow said Pieper had made no effort to repay RWCC.

The judge signed a compensation order for the sum stolen.

In imposing jail, Judge Letherbarrow said there was no alternative to full-time imprisonment.

Six separate sentences were handed out resulting in an effective head sentence of four years and nine months and a non-parole period of three years.

Pieper will be eligible for parole on September 8, 2017.