18 May 2023

Ex-public servant jailed for stealing then selling government laptops

| Albert McKnight
ACT Courts

Con Ayfandis has been sentenced to jail by the ACT Supreme Court. Photo: Albert McKnight.

A long-time government employee caught stealing electronic equipment then selling some of it on online marketplaces and giving other items to people in the Philippines has been sent to jail.

Con Ayfandis had worked with Services Australia since 2003 and had been based at the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) data warehouse in Hume at the time of his offences.

It had been his job to deploy ICT equipment and then return it to the warehouse when it was no longer needed.

Between May 2017 and January 2021, he removed ICT equipment, including laptops, tablets, mobile phones, hard drives, keyboards, printers, cables, chargers and one television.

The ACT Supreme Court’s Acting Justice Peter Berman said some of this equipment was sold on Gumtree or Facebook Marketplace and some was given to Ayfandis’s fiancée in the Philippines for use by her, her relatives, her associates or so that she could sell it. He also kept some for himself.

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When police raided his home, they discovered 453 items of Commonwealth property valued at about $98,700.

He had sold, or was found with more than 270 laptops. Acting Justice Berman said a significant number had been sold to a man called ‘Steve’ as well as others whose names were unknown.

He pleaded guilty to one count of theft and two counts of obtaining financial advantage by deception.

The latter charges relate to the sale of 29 laptops for $6700 and the sale of 13 laptops for $2275.

Ayfandis had claimed to the author of a court report that he wanted to take the “end-of-life” devices from his work and send them to the Philippines to assist children with studying, but Acting Justice Berman said this was “simply not a true explanation for what motivated him”.

Messages between him and his fiancée revealed he sent laptops to her for her own use, for the use of her friends and associates, and so she could sell them.

“Despite the claim that the laptops were at the end of their lives, some of the property found at his home was brand-new and in unopened boxes,” the acting justice said.

“I note also that when interviewed by police, he told them that he had sold ‘five or six’ laptops in Australia, a figure which he must have well known was untrue.”

Ayfandis, now aged in his mid-50s, was born in Greece, completed a diploma at the Canberra Institute of Technology then started work at Services Australia before losing his job due to his offending. Afterwards, he began work with a bus company.

Since the offences, a psychologist has diagnosed him with autism spectrum disorder.

In sentencing remarks, Acting Justice Berman said Ayfandis was unlikely to offend again and had repaid the profit he made to the Commonwealth.

However, the 42 laptops he sent to the Philippines and the laptops he sold to ‘Steve’ and the others have not been recovered.

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Acting Justice Berman said Ayfandis had committed many separate criminal acts over more than three-and-a-half-years.

“He only stopped what he was doing because it was discovered what he had been doing,” he said.

“He stole a considerable quantity of property, and in doing so, he breached the position of trust in which had been placed by his employer.

“There is a need to deter others who might be tempted to commit offences such as these.”

Ayfandis was sentenced to nine months’ jail but will be released from custody after serving six months’ imprisonment on a recognisance release order for the remaining three months.

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