By Mitchell Clarke
A former prison guard with a “wildly astray“ moral compass will spend the next three years and nine months in jail, after his deceptive lifestyle finally unravelled.
Berwick man Peter Baird was sentenced in the County Court on 26 May after pleading guilty to a string of fraud-related charges, including 15 charges of obtaining financial advantage by deception.
The 47-year-old committed a “series of dishonesty offences” on unsuspecting victims including the mother of his children, between 2013 and 2014.
Baird opened a large number of accounts, with no funds in them, and deposited “valueless” cheques in a bid to obtain financial advantage.
Judge Michael Tinney said Baird set up a series of sham accounts through Bankwest and exploited a fault in the cheque clearance procedure. In some cases, he set up accounts in his father’s name.
“You opened a large number of accounts online and then deposited valueless cheques and then took out significant enough amounts which of course you knew would never arrive into the account once the cheque was dishonoured,” Judge Tinney said.
Through his “calculated and deliberate” offending, Baird was able to obtain over $80,000 and evade debts to a range of people and organisations, including the Eastern Football League (EFL).
The court heard Baird owed his former intimate partner a “sizable amount of money”.
In lieu of child support payments, he agreed to pay her utility bills. But instead, he intercepted the bills so she didn’t realise he wasn’t making the payments.
“Your conduct in paying these various valueless cheques was actually cruel,” Judge Tinney said.
“The fact is though that your conduct in evading the debt has placed her under enormous strain and stress.”
In another instance, Baird signed a contract of sale for a unit in Queensland for another former partner, who also fell victim to the cruel con.
“You were prepared to say or do pretty much anything in 2013 or 2014 to dishonestly obtain an advantage and not that much has changed,” Judge Tinney said.
“Your moral compass is for some reason wildly astray.”
The court heard that Baird had previously breached two community correction orders for similar offending in the past.
In sentencing, Judge Tinney said he didn’t believe there Baird had showed any remorse and argued that future prospects of rehabilitation were “actually relatively poor”, stating there was a sizeable risk of him reoffending in the same or similar way.
“You are more than just a nuisance,” Judge Tinney said.
“You dishonestly target or did in the course of this time frame a variety of people and institutions that you come into contact with. You do not really discriminate.”
Baird was sentenced to three years and nine months imprisonment but will be eligible to apply for parole in two and a half years.