At least 10 cash-strapped Illawarra residents have been revealed as bit players in what’s alleged to be Australia's largest-ever white collar crime fraud.
And while the Sydney high-flyers alleged to be at the heart of the $165 million tax racket appear to have splashed money on luxury cars, jewellery and other indulgences, those they recruited to allegedly help pull it off come from a less salubrious end of town.
The ten, who have had addresses in Wollongong, Fairy Meadow, Primbee, Port Kembla, Koonawarra, Corrimal and Fernhill, were named among 39 “straw directors” of companies involved in the alleged scam.
Their identities were revealed in a list tendered to court last week, in relation to the bail conditions of those charged.
There is no suggestion the Illawarra contingent knew of the extent of the tax fraud, nor have they been charged over their involvement.
However, police have alleged some received thousands of dollars in payments to act as a front for “tier-two companies” involved in siphoning off funds for the syndicate.
The lucrative enterprise was revealed to much fanfare last week, after the Australian Federal Police conducted raids throughout Sydney and the Illawarra.
After seizing luxury cars and racing cars, 18 properties, two aeroplanes, $1 million from a safe deposit box, firearms and bottles of Grange, police charged a close-knit group of professionals, including the son and daughter of Australian Taxation Office's (ATO) Deputy Commissioner Michael Cranston.
Balgownie woman Devyn Hammond, 24, was also among those charged.
Police allege Hammond worked with Mr Cranston's daughter Lauren, from laptops in a rented office in the Sutherland Shire, keeping detailed logs of illegal payments, companies and bank accounts.
The AFP alleges the syndicate recruited “straw directors” to appear on paper to run second tier companies.
The AFP alleges the tier-two companies were fronts, controlled by the conspirators, and they failed to honour their Pay-As-You-Go (PAYG) tax commitments to the ATO.
Company records show that some of the Illawarra residents were company directors for one day only.
Others held their positions for a year and some remain listed as the sole director of the tier two companies.
For instance, police allege that 37-year-old Ben Alaban – who is currently facing charges over a series of matters unrelated to the alleged fraud – received more than $109,000 for being the director of one of the so-called tier-two companies.
Alaban received the money between July and October last year, police said, as a sole director of a company named PPA Contractors Australia.
Acquaintances of Mr Alaban said he was known to gamble and – like others in the Illawarra contingent, who are linked on social media – had boasted of receiving payments.
“That sort of money wouldn’t have gone very far,” one associate, who did not wish to be named, told the Mercury.
The North Wollongong associate, who knew a number of the Illawarra “straw directors”, said they were the type of people who “don’t give a f--- about their credit rating.”
Another Wollongong woman, Danielle McDonnell, 39, allegedly received $14,000 between October 2016 and January to act as a straw director.
Similarly, police allege 39-year-old Ashley Mills – known as Millsy to friends – received $18,000 to act as sole director and shareholder of a company known as PP Australia.
Company records show this business is registered at a house on Cabbage Tree Lane, Fairy Meadow.
Angela Claire Yeoland, who has been associated with addresses in Gerroa and Corrimal, was also listed as a company director. However, police said they were “yet to identify funds received by Yeoland”.
The 33-year-old was reported to be missing by Wollongong police on January 24, when she had made no contact with family and friends after leaving the Windmill Hotel at Woonona at 1am two days earlier.
She has since been found, police told the Mercury.
Other Illawarra residents named as part of the court proceedings include a 27-year-old man with an address at Koonawarra and a 48-year-old Portuguese-born Port Kembla man.
- with SMH