A former NSW TAFE IT manager found to be corrupt by the state’s anti-corruption watchdog for an invoicing scam that defrauded $1.7 million has been sentenced to eight years in jail.
Ronald Cordoba, 48, was on Wednesday found guilty of four counts of fraud and deception at Sydney’s Downing Centre Local Court for offences dating back to 2014.
Two of these counts relate to making false or misleading statements to investigators from NSW’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) and at subsequent public inquiry.
Cordoba was formally labelled corrupt by ICAC in March 2016 after an elaborate scheme that netted as much as $1.7 million from TAFE’s South Western Sydney Institute campus was uncovered.
During the inquiry, the former IT manager admitted a number of frauds against the institute, including using a front company to charge for a fake cloud service run from a server in his own home.
Following this admission of guilt, ICAC secured charges in February 2017, which Cordoba originally pleaded guilty to in July 2017.
He was set to be sentenced in May 2018, but sentencing was pushed back to allow Cordoba to withdraw his guilty plea through a “plea traversal” in June 2018.
However, when the hearing came, Cordoba failed to show and an arrest warrant was issued to bring him before the court.
NSW Police from the Camden Police Area Command were still searching for Cordoba in January and even appealed to the public for assistance.
In March, the 48-year-old reappeared in the courts system, this time without bail after voluntarily handing himself over to police, who had by then established that he was living in South Australia.
At sentencing on Wednesday, Judge Helen Syme described the offences as “reprehensible”, requiring “systematic dishonesty” and a “significant level of foresight” and planning to undertake.
She said Cordoba had “very easily” made 50 purchase orders for IT hardware and software over a seven month period worth $1.7 million, which apart from a single Samsung SSD Drive were never delivered to TAFE NSW.
Judge Syme said at least $1.2 million of that remains outstanding, though around $600,000 will likely be paid off through the sale of property Cordoba bought using the money. The remaining $600,000 will likely fall to the government to reimburse.
She imposed a total custodial sentence of eight years, with a non-parole period of six years. This includes six years for offences relating to TAFE NSW (dishonestly obtaining property by deception).
Judge Syme quipped that Cordoba had a reasonable prospect of rehabilitation as long as he has “nothing to do with other people’s money”.