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Case study: Plumber jailed over $400,000 solar-powered hot water system fraud

On 5 August 2019, the Brisbane District Court sentenced Brett Stephen Muldoon to four and a half years’ imprisonment, to serve a minimum of 15 months, in relation to fraud and false or misleading claims, with respect to the purported installation of over 400 solar water heaters.

Mr Muldoon, a qualified plumber, committed the fraud under the Commonwealth Small‑scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES), lodging forms falsely stating that he installed air source heat pumps at various residences around Queensland. The registration of these installations resulted in the issuing of Small‑Scale Technology Certificates (STCs), which could be bought and sold at a negotiated price.

The forms submitted by the defendant essentially signed over the rights to these certificates from the homeowners and/or himself to an agent, in this case Emerging Energy Solutions Group Pty Ltd (EESG). Between 15 September 2013 and 9 September 2014, EESG, relying on the information provided by the defendant, paid him a total of $399,382 for STCs relating to installations that had never occurred.

A total of 423 sets of false documents were submitted by Mr Muldoon to EESG, and he was paid for certificates relating to 415 of those purported installations.

Mr Muldoon entered guilty pleas and was sentenced in relation to:

  • One count of fraud to the value of $30,000 or more, contrary to s408C(1)(d) of the Criminal Code (Qld).
  • One summary offence of false or misleading documents, contrary to s137.2(1) of the Criminal Code 2010 (Cth).

Fraud against these schemes impacts negatively upon the integrity of the legislative scheme, and the Australian Government’s commitment to the Renewable Energy Target, by undermining participants’ confidence in the renewable energy sector.

In sentencing, his Honour Judge William Everson said it was clear Mr Muldoon had a “persistent and severe” gambling disorder, and although he took into account Mr Muldoon’s admission and cooperation with Clean Energy Regulator investigators and police, Judge Everson said that offending of this kind is serious and a sentence that satisfied the need for general deterrence, punishment and rehabilitation was called for.