An ex-accountant who stole more than a $1m had a grand plan to repay victims until divorce derailed his fraud.
An ex-accountant who stole more than a $1m had a grand plan to repay victims until divorce derailed his fraud.

Fraudster’s audacious scheme wrecked by divorce

An accountant who stole more than $1.3 million from a group of five private investors had a long-term plan to pay his victims back, until his divorce brought it crashing to the ground, a court has heard.

The spectacular fall from grace sent creditors after Peter Mark Dunham in an effort to recoup their hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses, including legal action to seize his prized Sir Donald Bradman Baggy Green cap conservatively valued at $150,000.

Peter Mark Dunham leaves the Adelaide Magistrates Court after an early court hearing. Picture: Greg Higgs
Peter Mark Dunham leaves the Adelaide Magistrates Court after an early court hearing. Picture: Greg Higgs

The 75-year-old former chartered accountant used the hundreds of thousands of dollars he swindled from investors to pay for a string of investment properties across North Adelaide.

He lied to the investors, whose contributions ranged between $60,000 and $530,000, about where their money had gone.

As treasurer for Australian Masters Athletics Incorporated he also withdrew hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay interest to his investors to keep up the elaborate ploy.

In the District Court on Thursday Phil Crowe, acting for Dunham, said his client had been "robbing Peter to pay Paul and then repaying Peter before the end of the financial year".

The complicated financial fraud was based on Dunham's confidence that the investment properties would increase in value and the money from their sale could be used to pay back the investors.

Between August 2008 and July 2015 Dunham kept the precarious scheme going, moving money around to create the illusion of successful investments.

But in 2015 Dunham's wife of several decades became aware of the large amounts of money he owed to friends and investors and begun divorce proceedings.

The division of assets and the fire sale of the investment properties bought the scheme crashing down and had fraud detectives knocking at Dunham's door.

He was charged with 37 offences totalling more than $2.92 million but some were dropped in a plea deal only days before his trial was scheduled to begin.

Creditors also began cvil proceedings to recoup their losses but have so far been unsuccessful in claiming the "Baggy Green" cap worn by Bradman during his first Test match in 1928.

Bradman had been a former neighbour and friend of Dunham's father.

Mr Crowe said his client had repaid large sums of money to the investors but was still several hundred thousand dollars short of what had been invested.

District Court Judge Paul Muscat said the large sum which remained unpaid was concerning.

"So much money remains unpaid and there are people out of pocket to the tune of thousands upon thousands of dollars," he said.

Mr Crowe asked the court to consider ordering Dunham to serve his sentence on home detention, citing the risk of COVID-19 to an elderly man with pre-existing health conditions.

Judge Muscat adjourned the matter for further submissions while a report was prepared by the Corrections Department on the health concerns of prisoners in the prison system.

Originally published as Fraudster's audacious scheme wrecked by divorce


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