Former Ipswich mayor Andrew Antoniolli has avoided jail for fraudulently using council money to buy charity items.
Antoniolli, 48, was found guilty last month of 13 fraud-related charges after he bought charity auction items – including a football jersey, artworks and a bicycle – for his own use.
He was handed a fully suspended six-month sentence in Ipswich Magistrates Court on Friday.
Antoniolli pleaded not guilty to 12 counts of fraud and one attempted fraud. He was convicted of all charges.
His offending began soon after becoming a councillor in 2005, but ended in 2017 after he was elected mayor following Paul Pisasale’s resignation amid wide-ranging corruption allegations at the council.
Antoniolli’s fraud involved $10,300 of ratepayers’ money.
Prosecutors believe he was motivated not by personal financial gain, but to increase and maintain his popularity in the community.
He dishonestly acquired charity items, including a $3200 Trek bicycle, a signed rugby jersey, a gym membership and pack of comic books.
Numerous artworks were also purchased, including one for $700 that Antoniolli had himself painted and then donated for auction, only to buy it again at ratepayer expense.
Magistrate Anthony Gett labelled his testimony “self-serving” and “evasive”, rejecting his claim that his actions were to benefit the charities.
Mr Gett accepted Antoniolli did not financially benefit from the fraud, but said his offending was deliberate and protracted.
He also said he breached the trust of ratepayers in his position.
“You were genuinely motivated to assist the community organisations.,” Mr Gett said.
“But that is not at odds with your awareness from the potential benefit to you as a politician.
“You profoundly lost your moral compass.”
But he noted Antoniolli’s significant history of community service and charitable actions.
“The $10,300 subject to the 12 fraud charges did not go into your own pocket,” Mr Gett said.
“The charities that received those funds were not defrauded.
“Ultimately the charities, no doubt, benefited from the receipt of the funds which they could apply to their own charitable purposes.”
Antoniolli, a former police officer, was charged after a Crime and Corruption Commission investigation that led to the sacking of the entire Ipswich City Council last year.
He avoided becoming the second former Ipswich mayor to be jailed in 15 days after Pisasale was put away last month for extortion.