An Australian astrophotographer has pleaded guilty to several counts of fraud and theft after stealing over $16,000 from the Professional Photographers’ Association of Queensland (PPAQ) over a 3 year period.
Photographer Mark Culley allegedly used his Photoshop skills to forge bank statements and financial reports, and also to replicate the signature of the association’s accountant.
Culley pleaded guilty to five charges of fraud including two counts of forgery. The crimes were committed between 2015 and 2019 when Culley was the Association’s President and Treasurer. He transferred a total of $16,120 from the PPAQ’s bank account into his own, using Photoshop to forge bank statements and financial reports.
Culley’s Defence solicitor, Shannon Chen, described his criminal activity as ‘not really sophisticated’, and noted he was unemployed between 2015-16 and suffered from mental health issues, although she acknowledges his actions were ‘just not excusable’.
Ms Chen told the Courier Mail that “He remembers it started off as a lapse of judgment. At that moment he was just trying to get some cash to cover his personal expenses and the expenses of his business.”
Although Culley was best known for running workshops and astrophotography, he was also an active portrait and wedding photographer. His businesses were not “doing so well” in the years previous to the fraudulent activity, the court was told.
Culley has been sentenced to two years of prison plus three years of suspended professional activity, however, he is unlikely to actually have to serve any jail time if he complies fully with the court. He has also been ordered to pay back all the stolen money to the PPAQ.
[Via Inside Imaging]