A former Penrith accountant accused of defrauding clients to fund his gambling habit has been granted bail.
37-year-old Benjamin Carter made a fresh bid for bail on Wednesday after it was refused by a magistrate at Penrith Local Court last month.
He appeared at the Supreme Court of New South Wales via video link, watching the proceedings from a suite at Long Bay Correctional Centre where he has been remanded in protective custody.
He sat stoically in his prison greens during the hearing but broke down in tears after Justice Deborah Sweeney handed down her decision.
Carter was arrested at his Silverdale home last month and subsequently charged with 16 offences including 14 counts of ‘dishonestly obtain financial advantage by deception’, and one count each of ‘knowingly deal with proceeds of crime’ and ‘possess prohibited drug’.
During search warrants executed at Carter’s home and Penrith office, officers allegedly located electronic devices, hard drives, and documentation relevant to their investigation, as well as a small amount of a substance believed to be cocaine.
Police allege the accountant defrauded at least eight accounting clients to the value of $26 million in a bid to fund his lavish lifestyle and gambling habit, but Carter’s lawyer previously argued the figure was closer to $6 million with $20 million relating to gambling institutions.
The Crown Prosecutor opposed bail and told the court of five concerns, including that Carter would fail to attend court and commit further offences.
Carter’s lawyer argued that these risks can be mitigated, saying 20,000 pages of material are now before authorities.
He told the court that the case has been described by police as “overwhelming”, which supported his claim that these allegations are hard to prove.
“Much of the gambling activity is likely to be legal conduct,” he said.
“It’s rare for people accused of fraud and money laundering to be refused bail.”
Furthermore, Carter’s lawyer said his client needs to be at liberty due to the complexity of the case.
He asserted that he is going to have to spend “hours and hours with this man” to obtain instructions in relations to the criminal case.
The court also heard that Carter is involved in an ongoing civil suit against Sportsbet and proceedings related to his previous marriage.
The lawyer also told Justice Sweeney that his current partner is experiencing pregnancy complications and is expected to give birth next month.
Carter’s lawyer proposed strict bail conditions, including a surety of $700,000. He also noted that Carter is unlikely to commit further offences of dishonesty in the same way because the opportunities have been “effectively removed”.
“He cannot practice in his former professional roles as an accountant and tax agent,” he said.
Before handing down her judgement, Justice Sweeney took into account that Carter has only been before the court once before for dishonesty offences but did not discount that these “allegations of effectively fraud” are very “serious”.
She also noted that he was in the process of seeking out treatment for his gambling addiction in the days leading up to his arrest and had registered with BetStop, which will prevent him from gambling online.
He was granted bail under incredibly strict conditions, which were read out to the court.
Following his release, Carter must reside in with his retired mother in Kingswood, report daily to police and wear an electronic tracking bracelet.
He is also prohibited from leaving greater Sydney and is only allowed to leave home for a number of reasons identified by the court.
Carter is yet to enter a plea in relation to the charges.
He is due to reappear at Penrith Local Court on September 8.
Formerly with the ABC, Makayla is a graduate of Western Sydney University. She covers a variety of news topics for the Weekender, including courts.