Owner left broken by CEO’s alleged $3.3m plunder
A LOGAN man will face trial over allegations he took advantage of a business owner's ill health to seize control of the business as its self-appointed chief executive, granting himself a $25,000 monthly pay cheque and stripping more than $3 million from company accounts over five years.
Yesterday at the Beenleigh Magistrates Court, Belivah resident Richard 'Rick' Gordon MacKenzie, 68, was committed to stand trial for the alleged $3.3 million theft and fraud committed against family business Commercial Property Cleaners at Underwood between January 1, 2014 - January 5, 2019.
Business owner and director Susan Elliott told the court during her cross-examination it was "just disgusting" how Mr MacKenzie abused her trust to enrich himself and his side businesses, Beenleigh's Aussie Tough Trailers and Lismore's WOW Campers And Trailers Superstore.
She revealed the stress of Mr MacKenzie's alleged behaviour caused her to overdose and she hit rock bottom when she phoned the business one day to check in only to discover Mr MacKenzie had recorded over her voicemail, replacing it with a generic operator script.
"It doesn't sound like much, but it was the last piece of me in the business," Ms Elliott said.
"We ran our business as a family and that stopped when he came."
Mr MacKenzie was initially engaged as a consultant to CPC in 2011 but was hired full-time at $10,000/month due to the declining health of Ms Elliott's co-director, Dennis Botterill, who died in May 2013.
Defence counsel Jakub Lodziak questioned CPC's former office manager Glenda Allen intensely about Mr Botterill's gambling activities and whether company money was involved.
Ms Allen told the court it was "public knowledge" within CPC Mr Botterill was a gambling addict.
She said the co-directors had "screaming matches" where Ms Elliot would tell Mr Botterill, "'Dennis, if you keep taking money, you're going to send the company broke.'"
After Mr Botterill died, Ms Elliott became progressively more unwell with a pre-existing shoulder injury, as well as injuring her tailbone, and after suffering a mental "breakdown" spent much of 2014 away from work.
According to the evidence, this is when Mr MacKenzie fully seized control of the company: bullying and belittling staff, causing four long-term supervisors to leave; upping his pay from $10,000/month to $25,000/month; brazenly carrying on business related to his other two companies on CPC time; changing the supplier to an inferior operator run by a mate; banning talking, eating and music in the office; and asking Ms Allen to amend dollar amounts on CPC's then-manual banking system.
The court heard that 2014 - 15 is also the first year CPC was notified of a significant debt to the Australian Taxation Office, a problem which would get progressively worse until October 2018, when Ms Elliott's growing concerns were realised when her personal and CPC accounts were garnished by the ATO.
The court heard employee super had also not been paid and it was around this time Ms Elliott also discovered a suspicious bank account labelled 'FB Pay', which Mr MacKenzie claimed was for paying NSW accounts but she knew not to be true.
In January last year, Ms Allen, Ms Elliott and her daughter Bianca, who works as a finance manager at CPC, met with a tax lawyer and their accountant at Eagle St to sort out the mess, the court was told.
There they were told Mr MacKenzie had no work rights and they could fire him immediately. They did so later that day.
His case will be set down for trial in the Beenleigh District Court at a date yet to be determined.
Originally published as Owner left broken by CEO's alleged $3.3m plunder