27 May 2022 16:28
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Six people, including three real estate agents, charged over COVID-19 rental relief payment fraud

NSW Police says that several of the syndicate’s members allegedly facilitated the frauds by abusing their employment in the real estate industry.

NSW Police detectives have charged six people following an investigation into the alleged use of rental properties for the cultivation of cannabis and fraudulent acquisition of COVID-19 rental relief payments.

Those charged also include three real estate agents.

Fairfield City Police Area Command Crime Manager, Detective Inspector Luke Scott, said several of the syndicate’s members allegedly facilitated the frauds by abusing their employment in the real estate industry.

“We will be alleging these people used their position as trusted insiders in the real estate industry to defraud their own clientele and public money meant for those who need it most.”

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As per NSW Police media release, between July and August 2021, police dismantled a number of sophisticated hydroponic cannabis set-ups located within homes in the Fairfield area.

They seized cannabis with a combined estimated potential street value of $2 million.

Further, Police officers attached to Fairfield City Police Area Command also established Strike Force Delbo.

This was to investigate the activities of a criminal syndicate involved in the enhanced indoor cultivation of cannabis across Sydney’s south-west.

Strike force detectives were assisted throughout the investigation by NSW Fair Trading.

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Image source: NSW Police – Facebook.

As part of ongoing inquiries, NSW police identified several large-scale fraudulent applications submitted under the NSW Government COVID-19 Residential Tenancy Support Package scheme.

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Following extensive inquiries, a 52-year-old man was arrested during a vehicle stop at Cecil Hills about 7am yesterday (Wednesday 23 March 2022). At the Fairfield Police Station, the 52-year-old man, a real estate agent, was charged with 10 offences. These include knowingly direct activities of a criminal group, participate criminal group contribute criminal activity, two counts of cultivating prohibited plant (commercial quantity), two counts of dishonestly obtaining financial advantage by deception, two counts of knowingly deal with proceeds of crime, make a false document to obtain financial advantage and use the false document to obtain financial advantage.

A short time later, a 44-year-old man was arrested at a home at Bonnyrigg, before officers executed a search warrant at a home at Cecil Hills. Several items were seized for further examination. This man was charged with cultivating prohibited plants (commercial quantity) and participating in criminal activity. Later that day, two men – both aged 35 – and a 37-year-old woman were arrested at Fairfield Police Station.

A 35-year-old Middleton Grange man, a real estate agent, was charged with nine offences. These include participate criminal group contribute criminal activity, two counts of cultivate prohibited plant (commercial quantity), dishonestly obtain financial advantage by deception, attempt dishonestly obtain financial advantage by deception, two counts of knowingly deal with proceeds of crime and make false document to obtain financial advantage.

A 35-year-old Smithfield man was charged with participate criminal group contribute criminal activity and two counts of cultivate prohibited plant (commercial quantity).

A 37-year-old woman, a real estate agent, was charged with eight offences including; participate criminal group contribute criminal activity, two counts of dishonestly obtain financial advantage by deception, two counts of knowingly deal with proceeds of crime, make false document to obtain financial advantage and use false document to obtain financial advantage.

About 10am, a 23-year-old man was arrested at Marrickville and charged with participate criminal group contribute criminal activity and four counts of cultivate prohibited plant (commercial quantity). This man appeared at Newtown Local Court the same day and was granted strict conditional bail to reappear at Fairfield Local Court on Tuesday 25 May 2022.

Fairfield City Police Area Command Crime Manager, Detective Inspector Luke Scott said:

“The properties that were allegedly utilised by this syndicate to grow cannabis were subleased to members of the public who had no idea their name was on the lease agreement, as was the case when it came to the fraudulently obtained rental relief and bond payments.

The nature of this fraud is particularly scandalous and predatory; the community won’t tolerate it, and those involved now have our court system to answer to.”

All others charged have been refused bail and are due to appear at Fairfield Local Court on Thursday 24 March 2022.


Anyone with information that may assist investigators is urged to contact Crime Stoppers: 1800 333 000 or https://nsw.crimestoppers.com.au

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