Former SYC charity boss Michael Scott Lawson Clark jailed
A former charity boss who abused his position to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars from his employers will spend at least two years in an Adelaide prison.
Michael Scott Lawson Clark, 40, stole more than $350,000 from youth and homeless charity SYC between January 2016 and November 2018 while serving as its executive.
Adelaide District Court Judge Paul Muscat said Clark had deceived and betrayed many people and would live in the “cosmic shadow” of what he did.
He sentenced him on Friday to four years and two months in prison with a two-year non-parole period.
Judge Muscat denied Clark’s earlier submissions that he had stolen the money to repay debts, saying he instead held “illusions of grandeur and social elitism”.
Clark’s counsel claimed he loaned his father-in-law money and was never repaid.
“Instead of reining in your spending and trying to reduce your debt, you chose to steal from SYC in order to maintain the lifestyle which you and your wife had become accustomed to,” Judge Muscat said.
Clark pilfered funds from SYC despite he and his wife earning more than $750,000 during the period of his offending.
“Sadly, somewhere along your journey in life, you lost your moral compass,” the judge said.
Clark’s sentence was reduced from seven years due to his early guilty plea to 37 counts of aggravated dishonestly dealing with documents and 39 counts of dishonestly receiving property without consent.
Judge Muscat said his fraudulent behaviour, which involved forging fake invoices for IT services, was “not very sophisticated”.
“Because of your position in SYC, you were virtually immune from scrutiny or challenge,” he said.
“That is how you were able to get away with what you did for so long.”
Jude Muscat, however, recognised Clark’s potential for redemption after hitting “rock bottom”.
“To your credit, you have accepted full responsibility for your actions,” he said.
SYC has helped Adelaide’s homeless and unemployed youth for more than 60 years.
SYC Chief Executive Paul Edginton said no one the charity helped was affected by the fraud.
“In times like that, my role it to make sure we keep doing what we do,” he told reporters outside court.
“We have important work to do for people who don’t have the opportunity to do it for themselves.”
Clark previously served as a ministerial adviser to the John Olsen and Rob Kerin state governments in the late 1990s and early 2000s.