Fraudster now ‘can’t get job as Uber driver’
A disgraced Victorian bureaucrat formerly responsible for a $10 billion budget now can't get a job as an Uber driver, a court heard on Friday.
Nino Napoli, 64, resigned in the wake of a 2015 investigation by Victoria's anti-corruption body IBAC, which revealed his complex scheme to defraud the Department of Education out of half a million dollars.
Since then he has struggled to find work, his defence counsel Jim Shaw told the Victorian County Court.
"He had tried to get a job as an Uber driver at one point, but because he had pending criminal charges he couldn't get a job doing that," Mr Shaw said. "That's what he's been reduced to."
Mr Napoli and his cousin Carlo Squillacioti, 62, appeared via videolink for a pre-sentencing hearing in front of Judge George Georgiou, after each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
The charges relate to a complex "banker schools" scheme operating from 2007 to 2014 when Mr Napoli was a high-ranking Department of Education and Training bureaucrat.
The court previously heard Mr Napoli would transfer taxpayer money to certain public schools, and the schools would then distribute the money to companies owned by Mr Napoli's friends and family.
Schools would send the money after receiving fraudulent invoices for work including printing, transport, filmmaking programs, and training content - sometimes in exchange for work done but "improperly" awarded to Mr Napoli's associates' companies without a tender process, and sometimes for no work at all.
Some of the companies were owned by Mr Squillacioti, who personally benefited $58,000 from the rort, compared to Mr Napoli's personal benefit of $95,000.
Mr Shaw argued to the court the "gravity of offending" of Mr Napoli and Mr Squillacioti was lower because sometimes the work the companies were being paid to complete was actually completed.
"Nino Napoli took the view that the department was getting value for money" when he improperly awarded contracts to his friends and family, Mr Shaw said.
But Judge Georgiou grilled the lawyer on this point.
"There does not seem to be any evidence supporting the proposition that this was done, also, to benefit the department," he said.
"You accept, don't you, that some of the work invoiced was not done?
"I take it your client was on a very comfortable income throughout the period of this offending.
"Why shouldn't I find that this was committed purely out of greed?"
The defence counsel said Mr Napoli had gotten caught up in a culture of "privilege" and "invincibility" at the Department of Education. Multiple high-level bureaucrats from the time are either facing charges or are already sentenced.
"They had too much freedom," Mr Shaw said. "They had too much power."
The investigation led to Mr Napoli's resignation in 2015, after 40 years with the department, where he started as a payroll officer before he "rose through the ranks" to have responsibility for $10 billion.
"He knows he brought it upon himself, but the department was something that was his life, really," Mr Shaw said.
"His reputation is in tatters."
Mr Shaw asked the judge to consider a community corrections order for Mr Napoli so he could look after his elderly mother, who had left her nursing home after cases of COVID-19 emerged in the home.
Mr Napoli had thought "long and hard about his offending", he said.
In this case of Mr Squillacioti, the counsel said the attention the high-profile case had received had hurt his businesses.
"Their reputation was seriously tarnished, he had some serious financial problems, the banks foreclosed … the notoriety of this case has punished him," he said.
His references attested Mr Squillacioti was "embarrassed, ashamed, and remorseful".
The pre-sentencing hearings continue on August 19.
Originally published as Fraudster now 'can't get job as Uber driver'