FORMER Griffith councillor Peter Fussell has been sentenced to 18 months in prison after he was convicted of a string of dishonesty charges at Griffith Local Court on Friday.
Fussell, 51, will spend at least the next year behind bars unless his appeal against the severity of his sentence is successful.
The former deputy mayor pleaded guilty to eight counts of obtaining money by deception – greater than $15,000 – and five counts of obtaining money by deception – greater than $5000 but less than $15,000.
His offences were discovered after the collapse of his Griffith City Motors and Riverina Motor Group dealerships in 2010.
In November 2012, after extensive investigations, police charged Fussell with one count of dishonestly obtaining financial advantage by deception and 16 counts of obtaining money by deception.
Since then, three counts of obtaining money by deception and the charge of dishonestly obtaining financial advantage by deception were withdrawn by police.
At the time the offences were committed, Fussell was serving as a Griffith city councillor and resigned from council in March 2012. Along with his car dealerships, Fussell was also the director of two lease companies – Peleno Pty Ltd and Carway (Vic) Pty Ltd.
It was discovered Fussell had dishonesty obtained profits by selling cars without declaring lease agreements, taking out two lease agreements on the same vehicle with different banks and not disclosing sales of vehicles to the banks.
His first offence was in 2008 and subsequent offences ranged from $8000 to more than $31,000.
Fussell was refused bail on Friday after Magistrate Shane McAnulty denied his bail application.
His appeal, which Fussell lodged immediately after his sentencing, could be heard at the next sitting of Griffith District Court in June, or he may be granted an earlier hearing in Sydney.
If his appeal is unsuccessful, Fussell will not be eligible for release until May 26, 2015.