NTCA's money gambled away

ROY Frederick James thought he could beat the house at its own game.

Instead he flushed more than $90,000 belonging to the Northern Tasmanian Cricket Association down the drain.

James, 53, of Westbury, began embezzling money less than a month after being elected voluntary finance director in August 2012.

Over the next 12 months, 75 per cent of the stolen funds would go to feed his gambling habit.

Yesterday the Supreme Court in Launceston heard how James believed he could use maths to turn blackjack in his favour. On one occasion the mistaken belief saw him check into Hobart's Wrest Point Casino expecting to win big with NTCA money.

His plan was always to repay the stolen funds, the court heard.

James's role at the NTCA gave him sole control of it finances.

When he learned how easy it was to bank a blank cheque, it just "snowballed from there", he told police.

Next was electronic embezzlement, falsifying computer accounting software to make transfers look legitimate.

In mid-2013 James failed to give the board a finance report and made excuses to avoid meetings.

The board became concerned when it couldn't find him and had it confirmed by an accountant that the NTCA books had not been handed over.

James eventually met NTCA president Paul Clark and admitted misappropriating the money before handing himself in to police.

Defence counsel James Oxley said his client was heavily addicted to gambling and operated under the "delusion for a significant period of time" that he could beat the casinos at cards.

However, he said James's crime was unsophisticated and his detection was always a high chance due to the paper trail that he left.

James had spent most of his life involved in the cricket fraternity, first as a player, before becoming a well-respected senior umpire. The effect of his wrongdoing would be acutely felt, Mr Oxley said. "He has been shunned from the community," Mr Oxley said.

As a result of divorce, a failed pizzeria in Westbury and his gambling addiction, James was now destitute, he said.

Any conviction would also very likely end his 36-year career in the retail sector.

Justice David Porter said it was appropriate to hold James in custody until he was sentenced on April 2.

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