Nine arrested after investigation into bushfires grant fraud – Criminal Groups Squad

Detectives have arrested nine people with links to outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMCG) during a two-day operation as part of investigations into fraudulent claims for federal funding intended for victims of the 2019-2020 bushfire disaster.

In August this year, detectives from the State Crime Command’s Criminal Groups Squad established Strike Force Fireant to investigate reports that members and associates of the Rebels OMCG were allegedly involved in obtaining unlawful grant money through a NSW Government grant scheme.

Following extensive inquiries, strike force investigators executed 11 search warrants across Greater Sydney and the Southern Highlands during a two-day operation yesterday (Wednesday 9 December 2020) and today (Thursday 10 December 2020).

The search warrants were executed at Box Hill, Colebee, Hill Top, Lalor Park, Mittagong, Marrickville, North Richmond, Sackville, Westmead, Wilberforce and Windsor.

Strike Force Raptor were assisted throughout the operation by the North West Region Operations Support Group (OSG) and the Public Order and Riot Squad (PORS).

During the searches, officers seized documentation, mobile phones, SIM cards, laptops and electronic storage devices.

Investigators also seized cash, prescription medication and prohibited drugs including ecstasy, cannabis, methylamphetamine (ice) and steroids.

All items seized throughout the investigation will undergo further forensic examination.

During the two-day operation, nine people – six men and three women – were arrested.

  • A 30-year-old man was arrested at a home at Lalor Park just after 6am yesterday (Wednesday 9 December 2020). He was taken to Blacktown Police Station and charged with 14 counts of publish misleading material to obtain advantage, dishonestly obtain financial vantage by deception and knowingly deal with proceeds of crime intent to conceal. He was refused bail to appear at Blacktown Local Court today (Thursday 10 December 2020).
  • A second 30-year-old man was arrested at Sackville about 6.30am yesterday. He was taken to Windsor Police Station and charged with 10 counts of publish false misleading material to obtain advantage, dishonestly obtain financial advantage by deception, knowingly deal with proceeds of crime intent to conceal and contravene prohibition/restriction in AVO (domestic). He was refused bail to appear before Penrith Local Court today.
  • A 31-year-old man, who is a member of the Rebels OMCG, was arrested at Hill Top about 6.15am yesterday. He was taken to Moss Vale Police Station and charged with dishonestly obtain financial advantage by deception, knowingly deal with proceeds of crime intent to conceal, acquire ammunition subject to prohibition order and publish false misleading material to obtain advantage. He was appeared at Moss Vale Local Court yesterday, where he was granted strict conditional bail to reappear at the same court on Tuesday 19 January 2021.
  • A 32-year-old man was arrested at Box Hill about 6am yesterday. He was taken to Windsor Police Station and charged with dishonestly obtain financial advantage by deception, knowingly deal with proceeds of crime intent to conceal and three counts of possess prohibited drug. He was granted strict conditional bail to face Windsor Local Court on Thursday 21 January 2021.
  • A 29-year-old man was arrested at a home in Wilberforce about 6am yesterday. He was taken to Windsor Police Station and charged with three counts of dishonestly obtain financial advantage by deception, two counts of publish false misleading material to obtain advantage and knowingly deal with proceeds of crime intent to conceal. He was granted strict conditional bail to appear before Windsor Local Court on Thursday 21 January 2021.
  • A 26-year-old woman from South Windsor was arrested at Windsor Police Station about 2pm yesterday. She was charged with publish false misleading material to obtain advantage and knowingly deal with proceeds of crime intent to conceal. She was granted strict conditional bail to appear before Windsor Local Court on Thursday 21 January 2021.
  • Yesterday, a 25-year-old North Richmond man was issued a Court Attendance Notice (CAN) for dishonestly obtain financial advantage by deception, knowingly deal with proceeds of crime intent to conceal and publish false misleading material to obtain advantage. He is due to appear before Windsor Local Court on Thursday 21 January 2021.
  • Two women – aged 25 and 37 – were arrested from 6am today (Thursday 10 December 2020) at Westmead and Colebee. The pair were taken to Merrylands and Riverstone Police Stations where charges are expected to be laid.

Police will allege in court that a total of $700,000 in claims were made by the group through a NSW Government grant scheme, that resulted in grants being obtained to the value of $113,000.

Criminal Groups Squad Commander, Detective Superintendent Robert Critchlow, said the crimes that have allegedly taken place are particularly heinous given the devastation suffered during last year’s fire season.

“The bushfires completely destroyed thousands of homes, schools, community facilities and other critical infrastructure and tragically claimed the lives of 26 people, including three Rural Fire Service volunteers,” Det Supt Critchlow said.

“Sadly, the aftermath of this tragedy was many small businesses were severely affected and the federal government funding was established to provide them some relief.

“Unfortunately, there are segments of society who will choose to use situations such as these to gain personal financial advantage, and not surprisingly on this occasion the alleged offenders have ties to Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs.

“We are extremely pleased these individuals are now before the court and would like to thank Service NSW for their assistance with our investigation,” Det Supt Critchlow said.

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