Bendigo man charged over bushfire car scam

Bendigo man charged over bushfire car scam

16 May 2009

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A man who collected used cars under the guise of giving them to Black Saturday survivors has been charged over claims victims never received the vehicles.

Detectives from the Bendigo crime investigation unit swooped on the Neilborough property of Geoffrey Graham Pearson early yesterday.

Seven vehicles were seized in the raid on the outlying property.

The 55-year-old was arrested, and following a lengthy day of police questioning, charged with seven counts of theft and five counts of obtaining property by deception.

More charges are expected to follow.

Speaking to The Advertiser just 10 days after the February 7 fires that claimed 173 lives across the state, Pearson said he had seen the destruction of Black Saturday first-hand, witnessing the fire roar down Sparrowhawk Road.

He said he knew he could help.

“I thought ‘what’s practical that you need’ – you need to get your kids to school,” he said.”

Giving people a car will help give their independence back.

“There are people who will never be able to afford to replace their cars.”

Eighteen local families were identified in February as having lost their cars in the bushfire.

Local automotive industry businesses were quick to support what they believed to be a worthy cause, donating their services to help get the cars roadworthy before they were passed on to bushfire survivors.

“The business community has come together like I’ve never seen it before,” Pearson said at the time.

At the time Pearson told The Advertiser he had the support of City of Greater Bendigo Mayor Kevin Gibbins and Member for Bendigo East Jacinta Allan.

But according to police, the venture was a scam.

Detective Senior Constable Len Ladner said police would allege cars were obtained and repairs undertaken under the guise of helping people who had lost vehicles in the February 7 fires.

It is then alleged Pearson sold them using an online auction website before pocketing the profits.

“Detectives are interested in speaking to anyone in the local area who may have donated a car or mechanical repairs to a person after February 7,” Detective Senior Constable Ladner said.

Anyone with information is requested to phone Detective Senior Constable Ladner in the Bendigo CIU on 5448 1300.

Pearson appeared before a bail justice at the Bendigo police station last night and was remanded in custody to appear in the Bendigo Magistrates Court on Monday.

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