Former Bendigo lawyer buried safe with cash

A LAWYER accused of taking more than $1.23 million from an elderly man’s bank accounts liked to keep a $10,000 bundle of cash in his pocket because it made him feel financially secure, a court has heard.

Euan Vance also claimed he had developed a way to win at roulette at the casino.

The former Bendigo lawyer, 53, who now lives in Queensland, has pleaded guilty in the Supreme Court to a number of charges including making a false document, obtaining a financial advantage by deception and obtaining property by deception.

He allegedly used some of the money from his client George Cutts’ bank accounts to buy cars for female staff he wanted be in a relationship with, as well as two properties.

Police were called in after a Bendigo Bank investigator was alerted to a series of unusual transactions involving Vance’s accounts in May 2011.

The alert came from an automated monitoring system used by the bank to audit suspicious transactions.

Preliminary investigations revealed a large number of $1000 cash withdrawals by Vance and it was discovered he had the financial power of attorney for 90-year-old Mr Cutts.

Bendigo detectives launched an investigation, code-named Operation Ologist, targeting Vance and discovered Mr Cutts had a Commonwealth Bank term deposit valued at $241,430.44 due to mature on July 18, 2011.

Police believed Vance would try to transfer this money to another account on that date.

At 10.30 am on July 18, 2011, Vance went to the Commonwealth Bank in Eaglehawk to close the term deposit account and transfer the funds into another of Mr Cutts' accounts which he controlled.

Vance was arrested and found to be carrying $10,000 cash in his coat pocket.

A later search of his Harcourt North home, south of Bendigo, uncovered a safe buried in a shed containing more than $340,000 in cash.

Vance told the Supreme Court how he had decided to keep Mr Cutts’ money in the safe because he was concerned about the global financial crisis and thought the cash would be safer locked away in the safe.

He claimed he kept some of his own money in a safe buried at his house.

Vance claimed the $10,000 in cash he was carrying when arrested was his money, not Mr Cutts’ money.

‘‘That money was cash that I got from clients who paid their bills and all the $100 notes in that money came from me being successful at the casino,’’ Vance said.

‘‘This is an aside now but I developed a way of winning in the roulette department and I've been quite successful ... and all those $100 notes in that pile came from my winnings in the roulette department.

‘‘And I quite liked having $10,000 groupings of money ...I like carrying that sort of money around with me because it gave me a sense of financial security in the event that I needed to purchase something ...’’

Vance said claims he was giving cars to women he was interested in romantically was ‘‘total rubbish’’.

One of the women who received a car was a smoker and he had a personal aversion to people who smoked.

‘‘And the reason for that is because their breath stinks,’’ Vance said.

‘‘I could never be personally interested in a relationship with a woman who smokes, because part of relationship involves kissing.’’

The plea hearing, before Justice Michael Croucher, continues.


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