NSW Police have charged several people who they say have links to the Rebels bikie gang as part of a probe into allegedly fraudulent claims for public money intended for bushfire victims.
It is alleged the group claimed $700,000 through a NSW Government grant scheme and received $113,000.
Six men, aged from 25 to 32, and three women, aged 26 to 37, were arrested as part of a two-day operation in Greater Sydney and the Southern Highlands yesterday and today.
The group was charged with a range of offences, including dishonestly obtaining financial advantage by deception and dealing with the proceeds of crime.
Detective Superintendent Robert Critchlow said the alleged fraud would be particularly devastating for anyone affected by the Black Summer blazes.
“Unfortunately, there are segments of society who will choose to use situations such as these to gain personal financial advantage, and not surprisingly on this occasion the alleged offenders have ties to outlaw motorcycle gangs,” he said.
In the aftermath of the deadly summer bushfires, the NSW Government offered several relief grants of up to $40,000.
Many victims waited months to see any money and had to go through strict grant application processes.
Among those charged were bikie gang members from Lalor Park, Sackville, Hill top, Box Hill, Wilberforce, South Windsor and North Richmond were charged, police said.
Police raids on 11 properties resulted in the seizure of mobile phones, laptops, cash, prescription medication and prohibited drugs including ecstasy, cannabis, methylamphetamine (ice) and steroids.
Detective Superintendent Critchlow described the alleged scam as “a most disturbing incident”.
“What’s very disturbing about this is that we still have 2400 families in the South Coast region of New South Wales being supported by the Government… to overcome the difficulties of the bushfires and then COVID pandemic,” Detective Superintendent Critchlow said.
“These grants were meant to assist that and they’ve been… stolen from this group,” he added.
“The Rebels outlaw motorcycle gang is a criminal organisation that provides nothing but misery to our community and we will not rest until we wipe this group out.
“They will not miss any opportunity to make a profit from other people’s misfortune.”
Ben Alan Clark, 30, applied for bail at Penrith Local Court today but was refused.
He is charged with 13 offences, 10 of which are for publishing false misleading material to obtain advantage.
Magistrate Brian van Zuylen denied bail, citing that the alleged wrongdoing took place during Mr Clark’s two-year intensive corrections order.
The court heard Mr Clark had allegedly received $10,000 from the bushfire grants scheme which he’d immediately transferred into a personal account.
He went on to make 10 more applications for $10,000 each.
The police prosecutor said there was an “extremely strong” case against Mr Clark.
He’s due back in Windsor court in February.