A man who stole more than $750,000 from friends and associates and the National Australia Bank, leaving one Bendigo victim $77,500 out of pocket, has been sentenced to seven years’ jail.
Matthew Johannes Waij, 35, pleaded guilty in the County Court to four counts of theft and four counts of obtaining property by deception totaling $772,191.
The court heard Waij took the money in two separate “sophisticated frauds”, one of which involved exploiting a “loophole” in the NAB’s internet banking system which has since been rectified.
It was after Waij was interviewed by police on July 27, 2015 and under investigation for those offences that he embarked on the second fraud, in which he “rolled over” money from his clients’ superannuation funds without their permission.
The court heard Waij duped his victims into signing forms authorising the transfers in order to carry out the fraud.
Victim impact statements from each of the four victims who lost money in the second fraud, including two Bendigo men, were read to the court during the hearing.
One Bendigo man, who lost $100,000 to Waij, told the court of his “initial shock and disbelief” that a “so-called friend” could defraud him “without the slightest hint of remorse”.
Echoing the other victims, the other Bendigo man spoke of his “crippling” shame and embarrassment, saying he now found himself withdrawn from social outings and had difficulty trusting anyone.
Judge Bill Stuart said it was “unusual but welcome” that victim impact statements had been tendered in a fraud case, which put to rest any notions it was a victimless crime.
“It is often not appreciated how such offences can have such devastating effects,” he said.
During interviews with police, Waij indicated his intention to pay the money back and said he had “never benefited personally from any of this”, but Judge Stuart said he doubted he had “any such intention whatsoever”.
Waij’s solicitor Robert Timms said it was the first time his client had heard the victim impact statements, which he described as “extremely sobering and very brave”, but Judge Stuart said it was “a pity he didn’t start thinking about these things well before”.
During the hearing Mr Timms asked Judge Stuart to consider deferring sentencing as his client would have a significant sum of money due to him following a business dealing which would come to fruition in coming months.
But Judge Stuart said he had “very great difficulty giving credence to that”, saying “I have no confidence whatsoever in your client and what he has to say.”
In sentencing, Judge Stuart described the date of his interview in July 2015, prior to the second fraud, as being “of very considerable importance” as it demonstrated he was “utterly and completely undeterred by what you had done before”.
“One might have thought that you would stop your dishonest conduct but no, you continued on with your offending,” he said.
In handing down the seven-year sentence, Judge Stuart said he took into account the fact Waij had co-operated with police and pleaded guilty at the earliest possible opportunity.
“It must be made plain that those who are prepared to engage in fraud of this scale will receive stern punishment,” he said.
In his victim impact statement, the Bendigo man who remains tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket expressed what Judge Stuart would later describe as “a forlorn hope”.
"To this day I still live in hope that Matt may realise the error in his ways and realise the damage he's done to me emotionally, financially and personally," he said.
Waij will be eligible for parole in five-and-a-half years.