A Darwin real estate agent accused of fraud warned a junior employee he would “pay” for reporting his suspicions to head office and that it “wasn’t in the spirit of Aussie mateship”, a court has heard.
- Chris Deutrom is on trial for allegedly diverting advertising rebates into his personal account
- Mr Deutrom warned colleague he would “pay” for reporting fraud suspicions, court told
- NT News general manager deleted advertising agreement at Deutrom’s request
Chris Deutrom is on trial for allegedly diverting advertising rebates from the NT News and realestate.com.au to his personal accounts in 2015 and 2016 when he managed the Elders Darwin real estate office.
At the time, Matthew Pullman was a sales support officer at the agency and also cleaned the office after hours.
Mr Pullman told the jury he noticed a rebate from one of the advertisers had been paid into Mr Deutrom’s personal company account, Deutrom Pty Ltd, and that he reported this to head office.
“It raised suspicions that something was not right,” he said.
He told the jury Mr Deutrom pulled him aside several times for “aggressive” conversations, after Elders management started asking questions.
“There was one comment that I should just f*** back off to England if I was unhappy,” Mr Pullman said.
“That I didn’t understand the spirit of Aussie mateship.
“He was basically saying he would find out who told head office and that they would pay for what they’d done.”
Mr Pullman said Mr Deutrom repeatedly told him that he was incompetent and implied he would be punished.
“He went on to say that nobody in the branch actually liked me … and that he would let everyone know that I was the one who dobbed him in for this,” he said.
“He repeated that he’d got constant complaints about me, he said almost daily.”
Advertising agreement deleted at Deutrom’s request
The court then heard evidence from NT News general manager Greg Thomson, who said he had a “business” relationship with Mr Deutrom and that Mr Deutrom’s wife Helen was on the newspaper’s senior management team.
Mr Thomson told the court Mr Deutrom asked him to delete an advertising agreement, which was in the name of Deutrom Pty Ltd.
“Deutrom told you that he had ‘f***** up’,” prosecutor David Morters SC suggested to Mr Thomson.
Mr Thomson agreed, and conceded one of two agreements was then deleted at Mr Deutrom’s request.
Greg Thomson said one of two advertising agreements had been deleted at Mr Deutrom’s request (ABC News: Felicity James)
“We deleted one to make sure that we had one Elders account,” he said.
Mr Thomson initially agreed with Mr Morters’ suggestion that Elders management had been in contact with the NT News before Mr Deutrom’s request to delete the contract.
Under cross-examination by Mr Deutrom’s lawyer Jon Tippet QC, Mr Thomson said he couldn’t recall whether this was done before or after Elders got in touch with the NT News.
“I do not recall whether that conversation occurred prior to NT News contact with Elders corporate,” he said.
Mr Tippett told the court any suggestion of a “cover-up” was wrong.
Mr Deutrom pleaded not guilty to eight charges of obtaining a benefit by deception, which amounts to $234,000 worth of rebates.
The prosecution’s case has now closed and the trial continues on Thursday.