Alleged conman stole $4m from lenders
AN alleged conman concocted an elaborate scheme in a bid to steal millions of dollars from mortgage lenders while ripping off innocent homeowners, a Melbourne court has heard. Former solicitor Gabriel Werden, 45, has been charged with six counts of stealing $1.5 million from banks and financial institutions in the past year, the Melbourne Magistrates Court heard today. Police allege he fraudulently tried to obtain a further $2.5 million from lenders, with up to 10 false mortgage applications still in the system. Fraud squad officer Detective Senior Constable Blake Young alleged that Werden placed advertisements in a Melbourne daily newspaper in 2010 and 2011 spruiking a mortgage refinancing business. But instead of refinancing clients’ homes, he would apply for loans and buy their properties under false names, pocketing the cash through false bank accounts when the transactions settled, Det Sen Const Young alleged. Werden would pretend to be the buyer, real estate agent, conveyancer and solicitor when applying for the loans, it was alleged. Werden, who was arrested in North Melbourne on Tuesday, allegedly used his black BMW sedan as a mobile office and juggled his affairs on three different mobile phones. “I believe that the accused is a professional fraudster,” Det Sen Const Young said in opposing Werden’s bail application. He told the hearing Werden had a long-term gambling problem and allegedly outlayed $37,300 at Crown Casino over 28 days this year, and more than $90,000 over 50 days last year. Werden brought in more than $5 million to the casino in 1998, $2 million in 1997, $5 million in 1996 and $570,000 in 1995, Det Sen Const Young said. He told the hearing he believed Werden’s gambling problem sparked the alleged fraud. Det Sen Const Young argued Werden would flee overseas if he was released on bail. Werden, who represented himself in court and indicated he would plead not guilty to the charges, argued he was not a flight risk and should be granted bail. Magistrate Franz Holzer disagreed. He said the charges Werden faced involved large sums of money and were “at the extreme end of offending”. He said the offences, if proven, were “sophisticated, planned … behaviour which involved repeated and gratuitous fraud over a lengthy period of time, on a large scale”. Mr Holzer remanded Werden in custody until his next court appearance on November 30.
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