Scam ex­cuse doesn't wash

’It all smells very badly’, says mag­is­trate

Geelong Advertiser - - NEWS - GREG DUNDAS

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

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