Scam excuse doesn't wash
’It all smells very badly’, says magistrate
A GEELONG man told police he was scammed into committing a series of online charity scams.
But magistrate Leonard Brear said yesterday Ian Brian Hyland’s story sounded “farfetched”.
He was told six bogus accounts on the Mycause crowdfunding website fed $1785 into the 58-year-old painter’s bank accounts from 2015 to 2017.
Using photos sourced on the internet, the accounts sought donations from the public for fake charity causes, including a child with cancer, a family needing to rebuild a home in Whittington, a cat owner struggling to pay vet bills, a person with kidney disease, a man with depression and a woman at risk of losing her home.
Prosecutor Leading Senior Constable Karl Mannes told Geelong Magistrates’ Court police raided Hyland’s Leopold home in June this year and found evidence to charge him with negligently dealing in the proceeds of crime. The defendant, who pleaded guilty yesterday, told officers the fake charity scam was the brainchild of an American woman he met on an online dating site in 2013.
Believing their relationship was blossoming and that she was preparing to come to Australia to marry him, Hyland said he gave the woman his bank account details so that she could transfer money to him from an account in Nigeria.
But the court heard the man suspected he was being scammed when he was watching a movie and saw a woman who looked exactly like the profile picture of his supposed fiancée.
However, he told investigators he did not report the matter to police because he was embarrassed at being duped.
Hyland’s lawyer told the court her client was “humiliated” to come to court in these circumstances, suggesting he had not profited from the scams as the money donated had gone to the person who tricked him.
“The court hears many stories. But I must say it sounds to me very far-fetched,” Mr Brear said. “It all smells very badly, quite frankly, and I’m not prepared to say it deserves a tap on the wrist.”
The magistrate convicted Hyland and fined him $3000 for his “callous behaviour”, noting the scam took advantage of trusting, generous people who donated money to help people they did not know.
“The amount (taken) is not that important in my view; it’s the methodology,” Mr Brear said. “You relied on the alleged suffering of members of the public ... (this type of offending) erodes the confidence of many in similar campaigns and sites.”
“It all smells very badly, quite frankly, and I’m not prepared to say it deserves a tap on the wrist.” MAGISTRAT E LEONARD BREAR