Jason Akers (left) is behind bars after pleading guilty to fraud.
Jason Akers (left) is behind bars after pleading guilty to fraud. Jessica Dorey

$220,000 fraud case blown wide open in Central Qld council

IT WAS a distinguished look, in suit and tie, but with the strain of deep concern showing on the face of a senior manager from a Central Queensland council as he stood before the District Court judge in Rockhampton this morning.

Jason David Akers was prepared to go to jail, but how did Isaac Regional Council's infrastructure manager, a man with an exceptional career path, no criminal record, drug, alcohol or mental health concerns, a stable marriage and a history of volunteering find himself in this position?

In 2010, Akers, now 46, was the architect of a sophisticated system to defraud his former employer, Central Highlands Regional Council of almost $220,000, and for more than a year he got away with it.

His job as the Infrastructure, Planning and Technical Services manager gave him authority to approve infrastructure works and for the requisition and authorisation of invoices up to $50,000.

Faced with a $8000 tax debt, Akers bought a truck and excavator, formed a company, Jaron Earthmoving, and entered it on the council' system.

Between March 2010 and April 2011 Akers approved works for the company and invoices to be paid into a joint bank account with his wife.

Even after selling equipment linked to the company in August 2010, he continued to approve invoices for phantom machinery and operators.

Central Highlands Regional Council did have a policy of obtaining multiple quotes, but Akers would give false reasons as to why they were weren't obtained - that it was done in accordance with the register of providers, or that Jaron Earthmoving was the only company able to respond as soon as possible or available on that day.

It was only when the Queensland Reconstruction Authority entered the picture that the fraudulent activities ended.

The QRA is an external body designed as an ant-corruption measure for local government and it meant Akers no longer had sole responsibility for approvals.

In 2016, the connection between Akers and Jaron was made. An investigation was launched and although Akers cooperated with police, he still sought to downplay the criminality of his actions, claiming a legitimacy to many of the transactions, even after he'd sold the equipment, rendering his claim impossible.

Akers pleaded guilty this morning and defence barrister, Jordan Ahlstrand didn't contest the facts, but stressed his total lack of any criminal history and compliance with bail conditions.

Mr Ahlstrand told Judge Michael Burnett that Akers was more concerned for his family than he was about spending time in jail.

He said he was not someone who needed supervision under parole and asked for a suspended sentence.

But Crown Prosecutor Alexandra Baker said Akers had no capacity for restitution and there was nothing about his case that justified special leniency.

She said he had used the money to live a lifestyle beyond what he could legally afford, including paying personal debts, holiday accommodation, mortgage repayments on two rental properties, boarding school fees for three children and car payments on two vehicles.

It was also revealed he spent $1000 a month on poker machines.

She said due to his seniority in the council there had been little oversight and he had abused his position in a "significant breach of trust".

In a long career in local government management, Akers had worked at Barcoo Shire Council, Duaringa Shire Council, Central Highlands Regional Council, including four years as infrastructure manager, and most recently at Isaac Regional Council.

He was a founding member of the Moranbah BMX Club, a past president of Duaringa Golf Club and volunteer rural firefighter.

Judge Burnett noted Akers' unblemished history, which he suggested showed good prospects for rehabilitation.

The man who had never seen the inside of a courtroom until this morning will spend tonight behind bars after being sentenced to five years in prison, to be released after 15 months.

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