Fairfield estate agents charged with alleged cannabis and Covid fraud
Three estate agents have been charged over a scheme that allegedly pocketed money from Covid payments at rental homes used as cannabis labs.
The estate agents are among a group of people accused of a scheme that allegedly used rental properties to grow cannabis and the names of unsuspecting people to claim thousands of dollars in Covid rental assistance payments.
NSW Police dismantled a number of sophisticated cannabis labs set up in homes around Fairfield in Sydney’s south-west between July and August last year when the city was under strict lockdown.
Detectives seized approximately $2 million worth of drugs and set up a strike force to investigate the alleged criminal syndicate.
With the help of Fair Trading, investigators linked the properties to several large-scale fraudulent claims submitted under the NSW Government Covid-19 Residential Tenancy Support Package Scheme.
Officers arrested six people on Wednesday, including a 52-year-old real estate agent during a vehicle stop in Cecil Hills around 7 a.m.
He was taken to Fairfield Police Station.
Police seized $5,000 in cash and cell phones from the man’s car.
He was charged with 10 offences, including knowingly directing the activities of a criminal group, growing prohibited plants and using false documents to gain financial advantage.
A 44-year-old man was later arrested at a home in Bonnyrigg while officers executed a search warrant at a home in Cecil Hills, where several items were seized for further examination.
He was also taken to Fairfield Police Station and charged with growing prohibited plants (commercial quantity) and participating in a criminal group contributing to criminal activity.
Both men were denied bail to appear in Fairfield Local Court on Thursday.
Later Wednesday, two 35-year-old men and a 37-year-old woman were arrested at the Fairfield police station.
The 35-year-old Middleton Grange man, who is also an estate agent, was charged with nine offenses including participating in a criminal group, growing prohibited plants, dishonestly obtaining a financial advantage by deception , knowingly trafficking in proceeds of crime and fabricating false documents to obtain financial advantage.
The 35-year-old Smithfield man was charged with participating in a criminal group, contributing to criminal activity and two counts of growing prohibited plants (commercial quantity).
The 37-year-old woman and real estate agent was charged with eight offenses including participating in a criminal group, dishonestly obtaining a financial advantage by deception, knowingly trafficking in the proceeds of crime, fabricating false documents to obtain financial advantage and the use of false documents to obtain financial advantage.
All three were denied bail and are due in Fairfield Local Court on Thursday.
A 23-year-old man was also arrested in Marrickville around 10 a.m.
He was charged with participation in a criminal group, contributing to criminal activity and four counts of cultivation of prohibited plants (commercial quantity).
The youngster appeared in Newtown Local Court on Wednesday and was granted a strict conditional bail to reappear in Fairfield Local Court in May.
Detective Inspector Luke Scott said several members of the union allegedly facilitated the frauds by abusing their jobs in real estate.
“We will allege that these individuals used their position as trusted insiders in the real estate industry to defraud their own clientele and public money intended for those who need it most,” Inspector Scott said.
“Properties allegedly used by this syndicate to grow cannabis were sublet to members of the public who had no idea their names were on the lease, as was the case with the rent relief and fraudulently obtained bail payments.
“The nature of this fraud is particularly outrageous and predatory; the community will not tolerate it, and those involved must now answer to our justice system.