Financial controller admits stealing $1.6m over more than a decade from business

The former financial controller of an electronics business in Sydney’s north has admitted to stealing more than $1.6 million over an 11-year period, using an elaborate scheme which involved manipulating its payroll system to give himself extra money.

Anoush Bornoush, 52, from Gordon, worked for Powerbox Australia – a family-owned business which designs and manufactures power supplies and batteries – from 2001 to 2019, starting as a finance manager before being promoted to financial controller in 2012.

A former financial controller of an electronic business in Sydney has admitted to stealing more than $1.6 million from the organisation.

In 2019, after an electrical storm caused flooding to the business, Bornoush organised an insurance claim. As part of this, he presented several invoices to one of the business owners, Helen Rutty, late that year and said he needed her signature urgently.

A few days later, an accountant who worked with Bornoush noticed two of the invoices, totalling $10,250, were paid to a business that had not provided any services to Powerbox for seven years. Bornoush’s bank account was listed on the invoice.

The business owners organised a meeting with Bornoush, where he was handed a letter setting out the findings in relation to the invoices. He responded: “Oh, that I have earnt for all the work that I do” and “I will pay you back”.

He was suspended without pay, then quit via email the day before he was due to give a formal response to the letter.

Several months later, when an accountant was attempting to print a payslip but could not find it in the system, she contacted the software company and was told all data prior to July 2018 had been deleted by Bornoush in December 2019.

The data was restored from backups, and a forensic examination of all financial records between 2008 and 2019 showed Bornoush made numerous unauthorised payments to himself totalling $1,610,430.09 between February 2008 and December 2019.

He went to elaborate lengths to disguise the payments as being legitimate, including using fake employee codes that corresponded to real people, and producing an accurate payroll document each fortnight which he slightly altered to make the payments to himself.

In June 2020, Bornoush was charged with dishonestly obtaining financial advantage by deception and obtaining money by deception. Last week, he pleaded guilty to both charges and signed an agreed facts document detailing how he carried out the fraud.

He will face the NSW District Court on April 9 to organise a sentence date.

Bornoush is also being pursued in civil proceedings in the NSW Supreme Court, where Powerbox is seeking $1,610,430.09 in damages.

In the civil case, it is detailed that as part of his deception, Bornoush constructed fake invoices and “bogus” audit documents which concealed his actions from an external auditor, before removing the money from his account in a series of cash withdrawals.

Lawyers for Powerbox are also pursuing Bornoush’s wife and daughter in the civil proceedings, alleging Bornoush transferred his wife $295,000, shares, and an East Killara home with the intent of keeping the assets out of reach of creditors. He allegedly transferred $120,000 to his daughter with the same intent.

Powerbox is seeking to have the transfers declared void, with the money paid to Powerbox within 14 days.

The Herald is not suggesting the women had any involvement in the offences.

In court documents, Bornoush’s wife said the home was transferred to her as part of a separation settlement, and she is the one who made the money transfers from a loan account “without involvement, request, approval or acquiescence” of her husband.

Both women denied that the transactions were for the purpose of defrauding a creditor.

The civil case will return to court later this month.

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