GUFC President sentenced over scores of theft charges

March 6, 2024
Clyde Mooney

The former president and sometimes treasurer of Gungahlin United Football Club has avoided more prison time, being sentenced on dozens of convictions over embezzling money, leaving the club “in tatters”.

Established in 1997 and based out of Harrison Fields, GUFC is the largest sporting association in the Gungahlin region, the largest football club in the ACT, and one of the largest in Australia, boasting a player base of over 1,600, competing nationally.

United States citizen 52-year-old Aaron Alexander was president of the Club and also solely managed the finances when there was no treasurer, from September 2016 until he was stood down in July 2018. For much of this period he had control of the club’s main bank account and a debit card.

He was tried and found guilty on 65 separate charges, but some were later dismissed on appeal, leaving 48 charges over which he was to be sentenced.

Court documents detailed that he stole a total of $23,546 from the club, comprising $8,233 spent leasing a car for personal use, $2,080 in payments to Telstra and road user services in Canberra, and $13,547 was transferred electronically during 33 transactions to his personal accounts.

It was reported the offences took place over a seven-month period and only stopped once he was removed from the role.

The Club sustained massive damage to its reputation, leading to volunteer workers receiving verbal, written and online abuse.

The scandal and subsequent events prompted players and families, in some cases even entire teams, to leave the Club, which offered that while the money may have provided Alexander with a few months of thrills, it has left a lasting wound at the club he betrayed.

A statement from the club was read in ACT Magistrates Court noting that the crimes had done more than bring financial hardship on community members, they had a profound impact “on the mental wellbeing of volunteers and their families”.

The statement outlined that volunteers had experienced significant stress and trauma, bringing physical and mental anguish.

“As a club and individuals we are still reeling and will likely continue to feel the impacts of his crime for quite some time to come.”

The Court also heard of the impact to Alexander’s life since his arrest, prompting his daughter to cease communication with him, and the ending of a four-year relationship with a woman. His assets were frozen and he has been unemployed since 2020.

Appearing in Court last week, Magistrate Glenn Theakston described the defendant’s actions as “groundless, inexcusable and entitled”. He observed the man had plenty of opportunities to reconsider his conduct, but did not stop. Not-for-profit organisations such as the GUFC, Theakston said, relied on volunteers and a lot of goodwill, honesty and trust.

The offending was seen to be a repeated breach of trust, which substantially elevates the seriousness of the conviction. The dollar amount, although substantial to the club, was not seen as highly significant in the eyes of the court.

Alexander had no relevant criminal history, and Magistrate Theakson acknowledged the impact on his life.

However, Alexander never entered a plea of guilty, and thus received no reduction on his sentence.

In relation to the charges for electronic transfers to his bank account he was given four months imprisonment, and for the nine charges relating to the car lease payments he received three months. The sentences are to be served concurrently.

But both sentences were fully suspended, on a 24-month good behaviour condition, with Alexander having to complete 160 hours of community service within one year.

He was sentenced to a further 15 days over six charges on debit card payments, but this was backdated and counted as time served, in February 2020.

Gungahlin United has recouped some of the stolen money through insurance.


Tags

ACT Magistrates Court, Gungahlin United Football Club


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