He's still looking for his next Reefy/ElfordTony Zappia - lol where is he these days. Garbo duty?
After Sydney emerged from its long COVID-19 lockdown last year, the controversial boss of Club Marconi Tony Zappia authorised an unusual payment for $13,750.
Alarm bells sounded for senior managers within the Bossley Park club over the invoice for “relocation of machinery.” Not only did Marconi have no machinery to move but the club was shut down during the pandemic, club sources familiar with the situation, said.
The Herald can reveal that not only did Mr Zappia’s family hold shares in RENTfleet, the truck-leasing company which issued the invoice, but other shareholders were Marconi president Vince Foti, who runs a fireworks company, as well as members of Mr Foti’s family and Marconi director Frank Oliveri.
Outside the club, the three Marconi executives were close friends and jointly owned Crucero, an unsuccessful racehorse.
RENTfleet, which provides heavy vehicle leasing options for those who can’t get loans elsewhere, is associated with Mr Zappia’s friend of 30 years, Brendan Gaffney, who was a regular inside the Parramatta Eels’ dressing room when Mr Zappia was football manager of the NRL club.
Mr Gaffney, an ex-bankrupt former Westpac bank manager, was jailed for five years in 2007 for stealing almost $4 million from clients to gamble on horses including placing bets “on credit” for “high-profile” people in order to curry favour.
In May 2020 Mr Zappia’s family acquired shares in RENTfleet but was yet to pay for all the shares. The July invoice, for work never done, was to pay for Mr Zappia’s shares.
“It was bloody ridiculous,” said Mr Oliveri in relation to the invoice. “I knew he had to make a payment for his shares” but “at no point” was he aware or did he approve of Mr Zappia putting in the invoice, Mr Oliveri said.
Tony Zappia’s signature appears on the controversial invoice for work never performed.
Mr Foti admitted Mr Zappia was being paid via the invoice because the club owed him money.
Asked if it troubled him that the club was paying their CEO money via a fraudulent invoice, Mr Foti replied, “my concern was that the club was not losing any kind of money.” Mr Foti initially claimed the decision not to renew Mr Zappia’s contract had nothing to do with the invoice. He later conceded there was some “slight doubt” over the invoice and “therefore the board decided the contract would not be renewed”.
On February 9 the board met over the invoice and it was held that Mr Zappia would leave the next day. But club sources familiar with the situation expressed surprise that the departing Marconi boss received at least $300,000, which included four months’ salary, all his entitlements, plus a glowing reference. Staff were informed Mr Zappia had done a great job but the club was going in a “different direction”.
Mr Zappia, who received JobKeeper payments, was promised a bonus by the board to make up for salary reductions through lockdown. He told the Herald he’d had a board member approve the method of payment. He wouldn’t identify the board member or detail who at RENTfleet had issued the fraudulent invoice, the bank account of which is associated with Mr Gaffney’s family.
Mr Foti said he was under no obligation to reveal to other board members his interest in RENTfleet but while some board members do not recall any disclosure of his interest in RENTfleet, Mr Oliveri insists that he did disclose it.
Mr Foti said he met two years ago with a “Brendan” whose surname he had forgotten. “He pitched a proposition which I believed was okay and I took it,” Mr Foti said. Both Mr Foti and Mr Oliveri said Mr Zappia made the introduction to Mr Gaffney.
Since leaving prison in 2012, Mr Gaffney and his wife Katie have taken up residence in the Horizon apartment building in Darlinghurst, enjoying panoramic views of Sydney Harbour. The pair also own a string of racehorses. Mr Gaffney is still a heavy gambler, wagering tens of thousands of dollars at a time on the horses, an associate told the Herald.
On his LinkedIn profile, Mr Gaffney, 56, still describes himself as “executive manager at Rentfleet.” In March 2020 Rentfleet went down the gurgler owing millions of dollars. Just before it collapsed, Mr Gaffney helped establish a new company RENTfleet (Operations).
According to his business card, Mr Gaffney is “General Manager Sales” for the new company RENTfleet (Operations) in which the Marconi executives have shareholdings.
In June, a month before the controversial invoice was sent by the new company, the liquidator of the original Rentfleet company, Jason Tang, wrote to creditors, which included the Tax Office, to say the company had been insolvent for years having had multiple dishonoured payments dating back to August 2018. Mr Tang said Rentfleet had failed because of “poor business management,” insufficient cash flow and high levels of debt finance.
The report indicates that while the finance companies went unpaid, the Gaffneys did not. Mr Tang noted there was no paperwork for “loans” totalling $1.3 million to Mr Gaffney and his family’s companies.
Meanwhile, Mr Gaffney’s administrative assistant Lisa Luca, 46, the sole director and secretary of Rentfleet, has been left financially crippled. Her home has been seized to pay Rentfleet’s debts and court documents show she is facing bankruptcy proceedings. Mrs Luca may have committed numerous offences involving breaches of her director’s duties, said Mr Tang in his creditors’ report.
Mrs Luca’s friends are devastated. They blame Mr Gaffney whom they said asked Mrs Luca to be a director as he couldn’t, due to his criminal conviction. “He’s completely without conscience,” one said, adding “Gaffney’s left her bankrupt and homeless.” Mr Gaffney did not return the Herald’s calls.
The invoice is not the first controversy Mr Zappia has faced. A previous Herald investigation revealed Mr Zappia, 56, who was fired as CEO of Cronulla Sharks for punching a female employee in the face, had failed to declare a sporting apparel company owned by his wife, his sister and brother-in-law had received tens of thousands of dollars from the rugby league club.
Alarm bells sounded for senior managers within a Sydney club over an invoice for “relocation of machinery.” Not only did Marconi have no machinery to move but the club was shut down during the pandemic.