We settled into our holiday unit, with the beach right at the back door.
One day, on returning from our daily visit to the beach, we discovered a telegram had been pushed under our front door. It was from Jim, my business partner, and read "please ring me". In anticipation I went out to the nearby public phone booth with a pocketful of coins (there were no mobile phones in those days). Then C R A S H, he informed me that our office manager had been swindling us.
The next day saw me at the Coolangatta airport boarding a flight to Sydney, then Albury, where Jim picked me up. We travelled home to Benalla together. Discussions revealed that there was an unknown, (as yet), deficiency in Housing Society funds.
The Co-operative Housing Society was our largest client. Jim and I were joint secretaries and I was the administrator, therefore our office was liable for any shortage. There were 15 individual socieities which had funded 525 home loans in Benalla. Monthly repayments were channelled throughour office, thence to the Registrar of Co-operative Societies in Melbourne. We handled all the repayments and our office manager had fiddled the books.
I spent a couple of days back in Benalla and ascertained there was a deficiency of something like $142,000. Our internal control procedures ensured that balances were confirmed with the Registry on a quarterly basis, so discovery was inevitable. A junior staff member had questioned some banking figures, so the fraud had been nipped in the bud.
As time passed, it was revealed that our manager had defrauded his prior employer, a prominent Melbourne solicitor, of Stamp Duty funds. On discovery, the solicitor notified our office, and therein lies another story.
After these couple of days I returned to our holiday unit in Tugan with a heavy heart. On talking with Bernadette, (my wife), were acknowledged that our plans for the building of a new house had been scuttled. We had to get on with our lives and face facts.
Back at the office at Benalla I faced a lot of pressure negotiating with our local solicitors, a Melbourne barrister, the Co-operatives Registrar, the insurance company, the HousingSociety directors, the media, and my partner and staff. The whole mess took three years to settle.
On the home front, instead of a new house, we settled for a refurbished kitchen, and now, 36 years later, we still reside at 137 Clarke Street.
The CRASH had taken its toll.
31 July 2021.