An Adelaide funeral director who faked his clients’ deaths to keep his business afloat yesterday received four-and-a-half years’ jail time for his crimes, with a non-parole period of three years.
Robin George Knight had previously admitted to obtaining $425,595 from insurers in prepaid funeral bonds from clients he said had died but who were in fact still alive.
He pleaded guilty to 22 counts of deception and one count of attempting deception in the Holden Hill Magistrates Court in Adelaide in December.
Knight, the former director of Knight Brenton James Funeral Directors, which has since close down, amended old medical certificates to attempt to prove to insurers his clients were dead and faked the signature of his business partner.
The 46-year-old represented himself in court yesterday, according to the ABC, and told the sentencing magistrate he deeply regretted his actions.
“It is a daily struggle to live with the consequences of my actions, particularly how a number of people have been let down and left with a severe disadvantage,” Knight told the court.
Knight told the court the media scrutiny of his case alone was enough to warn other business owners off committing fraud.
“The media attention of my situation would be a very strong deterrent to any other person who might consider this as a reasonable course of action and I obviously warn them against it,” Knight said.
In December, Knight had told media other business owners should learn from his mistakes.
“Swallow your pride and admit when things are not going well and take action because once you start this sort of situation, it’s obviously very difficult to get out,” Knight said at the time.
Magistrate Cathy Deland said Knight’s actions were serious and warranted a prison term, according to the ABC reports.
“I note that this money has not gone into funding a luxurious lifestyle for you, it has gone into your attempt to keep the business afloat when obviously it was not able to recover,” said Deland.
“Nevertheless, the offending amounts to a breach of trust.”
“I doubt the people who have lost their money are particularly interested in what happened to it, they have suffered regardless.”
Fraud expert Brett Warfield of Warfield and Associates told SmartCompany the three-year non-parole sentence was fairly strong, given the amount he had fraudulently obtained was only around $400,000.
“I’d say it’s a pretty tough sentence for that amount,” says Warfield.
Warfield says that business owners not only need to consider the possibility of jail time for committing fraud, but the lasting reputational damage to their current and future business ventures.
“One of the things we do with our clients is talk to them about media searches on prospective business partners,” he says.
“Something like this would come up straight away in any searches, and while it wouldn’t necessarily make their decision for them, it would certainly impact on that decision.”