BRISBANE, Australia — A Brisbane chalkboard artist who brazenly offered to create a mural honoring Queensland’s emergency services has been caught out faking top Australian honors.
Neville William Gentry, 52, pleaded guilty to 10 counts of fraud and one of improper use of service decorations alongside other fake credentials.
Gentry was sentenced in Brisbane Magistrates Court on June 21 to 80 hours of community service.
The artist’s honors scam was uncovered when he contacted the office of the Queensland police commissioner offering to create an artwork depicting emergency service workers as a way to “give back to the community”.
When he met police to discuss the potential artwork, an officer noticed the artist was wearing a number of awards grouped together that were “unusual”.
In email exchanges, Gentry’s email signature also claimed he had been awarded a number of honors, along with academic awards which he had never earned.
Police said Gentry fraudulently claimed to be the recipient of the Officer of the Order of Australia (AO), the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) and other false academic credentials to attend several events while attempting to organize meetings for his artwork business.
The Order of Australia recognizes achievement and service with nominations for the award coming from the community.
Gentry also allegedly made fraudulent claims during multiple interactions with customers between January and April, police allege.
“The service and merit awards allegedly used in these matters hold significant value to all Australians, and it is important the integrity and merit of these accomplishments are upheld,” police said at the time of his arrest.
Several replica items, including lapel pins and medallions, were seized in a search of Gentry’s home on April 30.
“He has not earned any of these awards, but he has used them in his communications with other parties as a way of advancing and promoting himself and getting business,” police prosecutor Tri Phan told the court.
“It is dishonest and deceptive.”
Senior Constable Phan admitted Gentry had effectively handed himself into police when he offered to create the artwork.
When questioned, Gentry claimed to have applied for the awards online.
Legal aid lawyer Laura Manley said Gentry had not intended to deceive and had worn the awards to “get into and absorb the character” he intended to create.
The artist’s earnings have plummeted following the honors scandal, to an average of just $150 a week.
“If he didn’t intend to deceive, what did he intend to do?” magistrate Ann Gummow asked.
“I can’t see that any damage has been caused — except to you.”
The magistrate also ordered all evidence of his “fake persona” be stripped from his email signatures.
(Edited by Vaibhav Vishwanath Pawar and Ritaban Misra)
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