A Sydney man who used social media to carry out a lucrative car dealing scam was brought undone after he and his mate tried to sell one of the ill-gotten vehicles to an Albion Park dealership.
Esah Naseem left a trail of victims cashless and carless over a 12-month period while pocketing tens of thousands of dollars as he repeatedly purchased vehicles without paying for them and sold them without owning them.
At the height of his crime spree, Naseem was being investigated by multiple police commands in Sydney, however it would be the potential sale of a red MG station wagon to Albion Park Nissan that would ultimately bring Naseem and his co-accused undone.
Documents tendered to Wollongong Local Court on Tuesday revealed Naseem used Facebook Marketplace to track down his unsuspecting victims, often wheeling and dealing his way into convincing them to hand over their keys - and registration papers - before cheques had cleared or bank transfers were completed.
The documents said the owner of the red MG advertised the vehicle for sale on Marketplace on February 22 this year and was contacted by Naseem in a matter of hours.
Using a fake Facebook profile under the name Syeed Emal Sadat, Naseem negotiated with the man to buy the MG for $28,000.
Naseem agreed to transfer the money into the victim's bank account that same day. The victim told police Naseem sent him a photograph of a receipt for the transfer about 2pm and the pair arranged for Naseem to pick up the MG at 6pm that night.
The victim said the money had still not cleared by the time Naseem arrived, however he was assured the deal was legitimate, with Naseem telling him he'd deposited the cheque from his business account and the money would clear "in the next few days".
The victim allowed Naseem to leave with the vehicle but became concerned when the money had still not appeared in his account the following day, prompting him to contact his bank and the police.
Meanwhile, Naseem and his co-accused transferred the MG into the co-accused's name then headed straight to Albion Park Nissan.
The court heard Naseem and his co-accused spoke to staff about selling the car, however the general manager said he was immediately suspicious of the deal, given the two men had travelled all the way from Parramatta (bypassing hundreds of other dealerships along the way) and were asking just $22,000 for the car - well below market value.
The general manager contacted police, who arrived as Naseem and his co-accused were leaving the dealership under the belief they had sold the car and would be receiving their money.
The two men bolted as soon as they saw the officers, running into the nearby Bunnings carpark. They were arrested near a blue Subaru Forrester.
Both men were taken to Lake Illawarra Police Station.
The court documents revealed Naseem was questioned over several other similar incidents in western Sydney but denied any wrongdoing.
However, in court on Tuesday, Naseem admitted to his crimes, pleading guilty to a host of fraud, property and theft offences involving a further seven vehicles.
In each case, Naseem contacted the victim on Facebook Marketplace about an advertised car, eventually agreeing to buy the vehicle and promising to pay by cheques which ultimately never cleared.
In one case, Naseem convinced the owner of a Mercedes Benz Sprinter to let him take the van so he could get it measured for interior shelving and simply never returned the vehicle.
In another incident, Naseem took the registration papers from a BMW X5 during a test drive, secretly transferred ownership of the car to the co-accused using a forged signature, then returned the following day and took the car under the guise of having a second test drive.
On each occasion, Naseem and his co-accused would immediately try to on-sell the ill-gotten vehicle to an unsuspecting buyer. The pair managed to sell the Sprinter for $13,000 to a start-up businessman looking to set up a courier company.
The court heard the Sprinter was subsequently seized by police and sold at auction for $15,549, with the money split 60/40 between the original owner and the new buyer.
Both men are now seeking further compensation from Naseem for the remaining money they lost, as well as payment of their legal fees.
Naseem remains in custody without bail. He will be sentenced on December 17.
Read more Illawarra court and crime stories here.
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