Newcastle Herald

Jail call on fraud charge

Date: 27/02/2010
Words: 273
Source: NCH
          Publication: Newcastle Herald
Section: News
Page: 24
THE Crown prosecutor has called for a full-time jail sentence for a former Port Stephens accountant who fraudulently misappropriated more than $1 million from clients.

Mark Leigh Clifton, 52, was found guilty last year of using money from investors to pay his personal and business debts.

Crown prosecutor Anna Seeto said Clifton had shown no remorse for his crimes.

"My submission is that the interest promised and in fact paid [to investors] was no more than a smoke screen," she said.

"He knew what the investors were interested in. He told them 'it's going to be invested with professional people, young doctors and solicitors'. . . so long as he continued the interest . . . he knew no one would seek redemption."

Defence solicitor Manny Conditsis rejected the idea that the payments had been a smoke screen.

Clifton worked as an accountant and financial adviser and had offices at Gloucester, Dungog and Port Stephens.

Between 2001 and 2006 he convinced three people to invest $1,050,000 with him, used to pay debts.

Mr Conditsis said that Clifton had been suffering from untreated, undiagnosed bipolar mood disorder when he committed the offences.

"He is not a well man the offender in my submission is quite ill," he said.

"In a hyper-mania phase they [sufferers] believe nothing they do can go wrong and there's a much greater chance of making errors of judgement."

Mr Conditsis said the investors had been repaid their money and received interest.

Judge Ron Solomon said he accepted that Clifton did suffer from bipolar disorder.

The case has been adjourned for further sentencing submissions on March 19.

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