Accused gold diggers arrested in Ballina over $150,000 theft
TWO people have been extradited from Ballina to face charges of fraud after allegedly stealing $150,000 worth of gold.
Jessica Ann Groff, 40, and Peter Milton Walker, 70, were taken into custody on Thursday night after they were arrested in Ballina by police for outstanding warrants in Queensland.
The pair was released into the custody of Queensland detectives and will face fraud charges of dishonestly gaining benefit/advantage of a quantity of gold.
Ms Groff and Mr Walker are accused of playing a role in a fraud scheme that swindled a Papua New Guinean man of $150,000 worth of gold.
According to court documents, the PNG man, Whynn Thomas, entered into a business agreement in May 2013 with Joe Bronston and Nathan Awat, who were field agents for gold buying.
"Mr Bronston and Mr Awat had convinced Mr Thomas to deposit $300,000 kina (PNG dollars) which equals $150,000 AUD into the private account of Mr Awat," court documents state.
Mr Bronston and Mr Thomas travelled to Brisbane International Airport in July 2013 and met with Chris Walker, who Mr Thomas believed to be the gold broker in Australia.
The trio went to the Holiday Inn at Noosa, where 2419g of gold was handed over to Chris Walker, who then left "for a number of hours" with the gold.
"When he returned he stated there was only 1831g of gold present," the court documents state. "It is alleged that (Ms Groff) has removed 660g of gold from the original weight as weighed by customs at the Brisbane International Airport."
Chris Walker allegedly told Mr Thomas it would take "several days for the gold to be processed", so he gave Mr Thomas a $10,000 downpayment and he returned to PNG.
When Mr Thomas failed to receive the remainder of the money owed to him, he returned to Noosa and confronted Chris Walker, demanding payment for the outstanding gold.
"Chris Walker then informed the victim that he had invested $150,000 AUD of the victim's money, in addition to $50,000 that he had contributed, into a PNG refinery business," the court documents state.
But Chris Walker was unable to produce any evidence of this transaction or proof of legitimacy of the PNG refinery business.
It was then Mr Thomas was introduced to Chris Walker's father, Peter Walker, who convinced the PNG national "the purchase is a good deal and that he needs to return to PNG and buy some land near the airport in order to set up the business".
Mr Thomas returned to PNG and purchased a block of land near the Port Moresby Airport worth $70,000 kina, or about $30,000 AUD.
After correspondence with the Walkers ceased in October 2013, Mr Thomas reported the matter to Queensland police.
Chris Walker was arrested in November last year and remanded in custody due to being a high flight risk.
Both Ms Groff and Peter Walker will appear before Maroochydore Magistrates Court on July 13.