A financial adviser in Western Australia stole almost AU$1 million (US$675,800) from clients to feed his gambling habit, according to prosecutors. If you ask him, though, he’s not guilty, and a court will now decide who’s telling the truth.
Mark Sebo gestures as he prepares to enter court on embezzlement charges. The former financial adviser allegedly stole from clients so he could gamble online. (Image: 9News)
Mark Sebo faces 36 charges of stealing money from eight of his clients in just 10 days in the summer of 2019, according to The West Australian. Police arrested him that same year, while his mother saved him from jail by posting his AU$$50,000 (US$33,790) bond.
The 41-year-old disgraced adviser is now returning to court for his trial. The prosecution is confident it has the evidence it needs to prove he wasted the clients’ money through online gambling sites.
Personal Piggy Bank
Sebo was in charge of advising the clients on their superannuation funds, which wasn’t supposed to include dipping into them like his own piggy bank. That’s what he allegedly did, with prosecutors saying he moved their money to his own personal and business accounts.
Those transactions triggered notifications to the clients, but it was too late. The money was nowhere to be found, and Sebo told the victims that they would have to file a complaint with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).
When he made his first court appearance almost four years ago, Sebo abstained from responding to the charges. Now, as he makes his way back into the courtroom for a jury trial, he has entered a not-guilty plea.
Despite apparently having no legal background, he has decided to represent himself in the case. He’s running out of time to brush up on his defense, as his case begins on Tuesday.
If his story is to be believed, Sebo was anything but a prolific gambler. The official story is that, even though his bank accounts were allegedly frozen soon after the complaints were filed, almost none of the money was recovered.
Sebo lost his license as a result of the charges. However, a website that lists licensed advisers in Australia, au-financial-advisers.com, lists his license as active. The site didn’t respond to a request for comment prior to publication.
Decade Behind Bars
Australian law, per Section 157 of the Crimes Act, allows for a sentence of up to 10 years in prison for embezzlement, with the maximum penalty usually reserved for cases that appear in District Court. Sebo’s case is one of those.
It’s unlikely that Sebo will receive the maximum sentence if Annette Roberts is an example. From 2018 to 2020, she ripped off customers of the travel agency where she worked, stealing AU$628,598 (US$424,806) in 522 transactions.
The owners of the travel agency had to sell two personal properties and delay their retirement in order to make restitution to the clients. When she appeared in court, Roberts received just two years and eight months in prison.
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