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MELBOURNE, AAP – A former Collins Street tax accountant who stole more than $220,000 from two long-term clients has been handed a community corrections order.

David Jacobs, 72, stole $222,533 between May 2013 and November 2016 from two men after his client base evaporated as more people began completing their own tax returns online.

Jacobs on Wednesday faced the Victorian County Court, where he was handed a three-year community corrections order.

He had earlier pleaded guilty to two counts of theft and one count of obtaining property by deception.

Judge Anne Hassan said Jacobs displayed an “appalling breach of trust” in ripping off his former clients, one of whom he had worked for since 1984.

She said while the 72-year-old’s son had paid back all money owed, the emotional impact of being pursued by the Australian Taxation Office and placed under financial hardship remained for the victims.

One of the victims, she said, had contemplated taking his own life due to piling debts.

“The suffering and stress you caused them until detection cannot be undone,” Judge Hassan told the court.

“Your offending has seriously and deleteriously impacted their health and wellbeing over many years.”

In a 2018 police interview Jacobs said he used the stolen money to pay his rent, bills and credit card debt after his business “kept going downhill”.

A “vicious cycle” began, the father of two said, where he kept retaining the victims’ cheques meant for the ATO.

Jacobs told police he and his wife did not lead an “extravagant” life but were “clearly living beyond our means”.

“I’m obviously sorry about what I’ve done and know it was wrong,” he said.

Judge Hassan accepted his remorse and said he would have been sentenced to a total of three-and-a-half years in prison had he not pleaded guilty.

She directed him to complete 200 hours of unpaid community work.