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Plutus Payroll’s ‘principal players’ make final submissions

Two principal players behind the Plutus Payroll scheme have made final submissions ahead of their sentencings, including claims they were not as responsible for the $105 million ATO theft as convicted founder Simon Anquetil and lawyer-slash-accountant Dev Menon.

user iconNaomi Neilson 17 August 2023 Big Law
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Adam Cranston, 36, the son of former deputy taxation commissioner Michael Cranston, and professional snowboarder Jason Onley, 53, appeared in the NSW Supreme Court on Wednesday (16 August) to make various submissions about their culpability and remorse.

Both men were involved in a scam designed to funnel funds meant for wages, tax and superannuation into side companies directed by vulnerable and often drug-addicted people. The money was sourced from legitimate clients who were attracted to the fee-free service.

Through his counsel, Mr Cranston said he was “ashamed and disappointed for the pain I caused” and admitted he spent his childhood feeling like a “disappointment to his father”. There was no suggestion Michael Cranston was involved in the scheme.


Mr Cranston also submitted through his counsel that he felt “trapped” and was often “deliberately kept in the dark” by co-conspirators.

Crown prosecutor Raelene Sharp disputed this, telling the court Mr Cranston had decided he was “in for a penny, in for a pound”.

“He’d been in for a pound from the start,” Ms Sharp said.

“He made a conscious decision to [participate] in the offending.”

Although Mr Cranston’s counsel submitted he should be judged lower than that of Mr Anquetil – the chief executive and founder of the Plutus Payroll company who was jailed for seven and a half years – Ms Sharp said his culpability is at least on the same level.

Justice Anthony Payne also acknowledged that, unlike Mr Anquetil, Mr Cranston had been responsible for the second-tier companies, which he said were the “real engine” of the scheme.

Comparing Mr Cranston’s offending to Mr Menon, Justice Payne did concede that the lawyer and accountant may have been involved for a shorter period, but he was a solicitor and “there was much to be said for that”, specifically around the trust the community had in him.

Ms Sharp also disputed Mr Onley’s submission that his involvement was driven in large part by blackmail threats from an outlaw motorcycle group who had become aware of the scheme.

She clarified the threats were made seven months after evidence suggests Mr Onley became involved in the scam.

His defence lawyer said it is accepted Mr Onley was a principal player but was “on the lowest rung” in terms of hierarchy.

There were also a number of suggestions Mr Onley was the victim of “friendly fire” from co-conspirators who sought to “throw him under the bus” by making his role sound bigger.

Ms Sharp had suggested there was a conversation between Mr Cranston and Mr Menon that placed Mr Onley “above Mr Cranston” in terms of responsibility, but Justice Payne dismissed this.

“There was a lot of throwing Mr Onley under the bus by those two,” Justice Payne said.

Mr Cranston’s sister, Lauren Cranston, has been jailed for five years for her role, while childhood friend Patrick Willmott received six years.

Mr Menon was recently jailed for at least nine years.

Mr Cranston and Mr Menon will be sentenced next Tuesday (22 August).

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