A South Coast man who allegedly defrauded charities in the wake of the Black Summer bushfires appeared in Wollongong Bail Court on Saturday.
Darren Mark Colquhoun, 38, of Barringella on the NSW South Coast is facing a range of charges including six counts of dishonestly gaining financial advantage by deception and one count of damaging property by fire for financial gain.
According to police facts tendered to the court, he allegedly received $600,500 from a range of charities and an insurance company - none of which he was entitled to.
The police allege Colquhoun called for emergency services on January 5, 2020 - two days after hazard reductions were carried out nearby - to say the roof of his house was on fire.
He rang back a few minutes later to say flames had engulfed his home.
Forensic services noted there were no burnt patches around the house.
Also, video of the house in fire allegedly found on Colquhoun's mobile phone showed "a fire that had been burning for a significant amount of time, not a matter of minutes as claimed by the accused.
In the police facts, it is alleged the fire was not an accident.
"Police believe that the accused lit the fire himself and let it burn for a significant amount of time before alerting emergency services and requesting assistance," the facts allege.
"The accused did this for the purpose of financial gain, that being the insurance money he received from the NRMA."
He was allegedly paid $376,000 by the NRMA.
As well as the insurance payout, police allege he applied for funds from a range of organisations set up to help bushfire victims.
The facts allege he received $60,000 from the Australian Red Cross, $75,000 from the Rural Assistance Authority, $11,500 from the Salvation Army, $60,000 from Service NSW and $3000 from St Vincent de Paul.
When police searched Colquhoun's home, they allegedly found $427,000 in a safe.
In bail court on Saturday, Police Prosecutor Amelia Wall said the public had an expectation that people who committed fraud claiming to be a victim of the bushfires would be punished.
Sgt Wall said the charge of setting fire to property carried a maximum 14-year jail sentence.
Colquhoun's solicitor said there was no direct evidence of anything untoward at the scene of the house fire and that the accused had two shipping containers of goods at the property in preparation for rebuilding the home.
The solicitor said the money in the safe was the proceeds from the insurance and charities that he legitimately received.
If granted bail, he said the accused could forfeit his passport and place himself under house arrest.
Registrar Tina McKenna granted bail under a range of strict conditions including someone offering a $10,000 surety and that he give his passport to the police.
He must also report to Nowra police on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, have no contact with witnesses or the charities and insurance company involved.
He also is forbidden from approaching any points of departure from NSW - either domestic or international.
He will return to Nowra Local Court on June 7.