Aussie travel agent sentenced to five-and-a-half years’ jail for “elaborate scheme”

Man in prison hands of behind hold Steel cage jail bars. offender criminal locked in jail.

A former Aussie travel agent who left clients stranded overseas and stole hundreds of thousands of dollars has been sentenced to jail for five-and-a-half years.

Arthur Zacharias of Parkside was found guilty of almost 30 charges ranging from dishonest dealings with documents to deceiving with intent to benefit.

The charges relate to an “elaborate scheme” executed by Zacharias in 2016 that left dozens of first and business class Adelaide travellers stranded or out of pocket using fraudulent documents.

Some clients were allegedly tricked into booking directly with Zacharias rather than through the agency he worked for, Axis Travel.

Zacharias also managed to defraud former Hells Angels bikie Peter Sidirourgos by accepting a $385,000 payment to make him a silent partner of Axis Travel, only to pass on roughly $100,000 of that to the agency’s owner, Max Najar, while spending the rest.

Last month’s hearing saw victims deliver impact statements in front of Zacharias, with Najar telling the court that his company’s reputation had been ruined by the ex-agent’s “orchestrated and cruel” deceit.

During his sentencing on Thursday, District Court Judge Simon Stretton said Zacharias had left his victims feeling “helpless, hopelessness, misery, anger and frustration”, according to The Advertiser.

“Your behaviour resulted in significant trauma for a number of your victims as they realised the travel arrangements they thought had been made on their behalf had not been made,” he said.

“Indeed, more than one was stranded in a foreign country, with you having purchased a one-way ticket when they thought they had return tickets.

“Your offending represents a protracted and systematic course of dishonesty which included you stealing substantial amounts of money for your own purposes.”

Judge Stretton said that Zacharias used a lot of the money he stole to pay “personal bills expenses and items then needed to make good those accounts by taking further money from new clients”.

“The court cannot accept that you had or have any intention to make restitution. You have been working full time for a considerable time and have not repaid any money at all,” the judge said.

Najir said that he would have liked to see a longer sentence.

“We rescued all of the clients, so nobody was stranded. All of the bona fide clients were rescued, paid back and so on,” he told The Advertiser.

“Zacharias is paying a very minor price for the major impact he has made to us all. His sentencing will never compensate for what he devised, executed, and inflicted upon us all.”

Featured image source: iStock/Rattankun Thongbun

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