8 November 2022

'Beyond any forgiveness': Magistrate slams man who 'helped himself' to $132,000 of his sick mother's money

| Claire Fenwicke
Join the conversation
Man and woman at police station

Peter Van Dyk was released on bail pending an appeal of his 14-month prison sentence. Photo: Claire Fenwicke.

A Queanbeyan man who stole more than $132,000 from his ailing mother while he was her enduring power of attorney has been imprisoned for what the magistrate described as a “serious breach of trust”.

However, he spent only hours in custody before he was released on bail pending an appeal.

Peter Van Dyk had originally pleaded not guilty to dishonestly obtaining financial advantage by deception, but entered a guilty plea at Queanbeyan Local Court on Monday (7 November).

During the 67-year-old’s sentencing, his defence lawyer Kim Bolas argued against prison, saying his guilty plea was an indication of remorse.

“He says he didn’t understand, he thought he had the right to do so,” Ms Bolas said.

“He was managing [the money] for her.”

To this argument, Magistrate Roger Clisdell interjected: “Yeah, by putting it through the poker machines.”

Ms Bolas said Mr Van Dyk was to have a Parkinson’s disease diagnosis confirmed this week, which was another reason why he should serve his sentence in the community.

“He’s on the aged pension, he’s not well,” she said.

She also said Mr Van Dyk was undertaking counselling for a gambling addition.

READ ALSO Neil Duncan sentenced to five years’ jail over child-sex crimes in Bega, Snowy Mountains

However, Senior Police Prosecutor Sergeant Jason Tozer argued prison was appropriate, describing Mr Van Dyk’s offending as a “breach of trust in the highest order of a very vulnerable person” and that a “strong message of deterrence” needed to be sent to the community.

“This was a considerable loss for a woman in his mother’s position and a breach by a person in authority,” he said.

“This conduct is denounced by the community in the strongest fashion.”

Mr Van Dyk’s mother, Carola, had previously been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and moved from Orange to Queanbeyan to live with Mr Van Dyk in January 2015. She later moved into a local aged-care facility.

While Ms Van Dyk listed both her sons, Peter and Joseph, as executors and equal beneficiaries of her estate, her younger son, Peter, was made the enduring power of attorney (EPOA).

When Ms Van Dyk died on 17 June, 2020, Mr Van Dyk indicated to his older brother “there was very little money left in the estate”.

This prompted the elder Van Dyk to lodge a fraud report with Queanbeyan Police.

A subsequent investigation found Peter Van Dyk had obtained $132,243.52 under his EPOA position across 226 fraudulent transactions between 17 December, 2015, and 22 June, 2020.

This included more than $100,000 in cash withdrawals and money spent mainly at Queanbeyan businesses, including Spotlight, LJ Hooker, Best&Less, Millers, Australia Post, Chemist Warehouse, Hair Flair and Best Friends Pet Shop.

Investigations also revealed $1363.50 was spent in the days after Ms Van Dyk’s death, including at three different Queanbeyan grocery stores.

Police visited Mr Van Dyk’s home on 22 January, 2022, and he undertook a voluntary interview on 4 February.

“During the interview, the accused claimed to not understand his obligations as [his mother’s] attorney and claimed ignorance around the suspicious withdrawals and expenditures,” the agreed facts stated.

“The accused made partial admissions during the interview stating that he used some of [his mother’s] money for weekends away and other incidental spending, but could not really provide any actual details about amounts or dates relating to this spending.”

READ ALSO Rear-ending at red lights results in over $500,000 payout to injured driver

Handing down his sentence, Magistrate Clisdell agreed the offending was serious.

“It’s a classic case of elder abuse, financially,” he said.

“He helped himself to $132,000 of his mother’s money … he effectively spent his mother’s money and left nothing.”

Magistrate Clisdell said Mr Van Dyk’s mother wasn’t mentally in the position to give authority over her finances.

He said deterrence was important given families often relied on children to look after parents and their money as they aged.

“Sadly, this type of thing happens in families from time to time,” Magistrate Clisdell said.

“The end result is we become less trusting of our family.”

He said in his view the offending was “beyond any forgiveness” and the only possible penalty was imprisonment.

Magistrate Clisdell imposed a 14-month prison sentence with a non-parole period of seven months.

Mr Van Dyk will be eligible for parole on 6 June, 2023.

Magistrate Clisdell also ordered Mr Van Dyk to pay $122,973.32 to his brother Joseph, “even though he has no prospect of seeing it”.

A man seated in the courtroom pumped his fist upon hearing this order.

READ ALSO: Second body found in search for men swept away in floods near Yass

However, Ms Bolas then applied for bail the same afternoon for Mr Van Dyk, as she had lodged an appeal against his sentence.

She said her client’s pending Parkinson’s diagnosis was a factor.

“He’s in ill health … it’s his first time in trouble,” Ms Bolas said.

“He’ll have a hard time in prison and he’s not a well man, growing older.”

Sgt Tozer opposed, with his main concern around whether Mr Van Dyk would fail to appear in the future.

Magistrate Clisdell granted bail ahead of Mr Van Dyk’s appeal hearing, which was yet to be scheduled.

He said this was because a community corrections order had been identified as an alternative option to prison in a pre-sentence report.

“In my opinion it’s not [an] appropriate [punishment],” Magistrate Clisdell said.

“[However] the victim is deceased and the second victim has very little prospect of seeing anything out of it.

“There is a [punishment available] other than full-time custody.”

As part of his bail conditions Mr Van Dyk has to report to Queanbeyan Police Station three times a week.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

Daily Digest

Do you like to know what’s happening around your region? Every day the About Regional team packages up our most popular stories and sends them straight to your inbox for free. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.