NO BAIL: Travel agent fraudster to await sentencing behind bars

A closeup of the locking mechanism of a closed jail cell with welded iron bars on a dimly lit dark background - 3D render

A former Aussie travel agent who defrauded clients via an elaborate Ponzi scheme will learn his fate in jail.

Arthur Zacharias had his bail revoked during a hearing at Adelaide Magistrates Court last week, after pleading guilty to more than 30 charges ranging from dishonest dealings with documents to deceiving with intent to benefit, according to The Advertiser.

The charges relate to an elaborate scheme executed by Zacharias between 2014 and 2016 that left dozens of travellers from Adelaide 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 week’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.

Max Najar, owner of Axis Travel

Najar said the financial trauma he has suffered from Zacharias’ actions totalled more than $596,000, on top of lost time and health issues, according to The Advertiser.

“What you did to me, my family, my business, my valued clients, my trusted suppliers and the entire travel industry is morally reprehensible, especially as you have displayed no sincere regard, concern or remorse for what you intentionally and strategically perpetrated in pursuit of your selfish actions,” he said.

“You designed the deliberate and methodically constructed webs of deceit that you wove to capture the innocence and trust of not only myself, but that of my staff and my valued clients and my suppliers, without any thought of the consequences and lifetime pains and sufferings that your crimes would cause.

“You have ruined my proud company by forcefully imposing your illegal acts upon me, stealing my pride, causing me emotional trauma and embarrassing my professional standings.

“I feel ashamed and guilty in allowing myself to be conned by you as you casually progressed with your illegal activities.”

Jon Lister, who was representing Zacharias in court, said most of his client’s offending happened once he found himself in a financial pickle from acquiring part of Axis Travel.

The court heard Zacharias’ crimes breached a suspended good behaviour bond for other fraud offences committed by the ex-agent involving false social security payments.

In revoking Zacharias’ bail, Judge Simon Stretton described the former agent’s crimes as “so serious and so relentless over time”.

Zacharias will be sentenced next month.


Featured image source: iStock/allanswart

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