Reporter: Matt Wordsworth
Delays in pursuing allegations of internet-based fraud by a Queensland man are frustrating police and victims alike, so what are the issues?
LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: Hundreds of Australians have fallen victim to an online gambling scam that’s fleeced them of millions of dollars.
The con is run by companies that offer punters calculated odds on sporting events, take their money and promise lucrative returns, but instead fleece them of their savings.
To make matters worse, investigations appear to have stalled because the operation crosses state borders and that’s causes a jurisdictional headache for police.
Meanwhile, the scammers continue to sting the unsuspecting, as Matt Wordsworth reports.
MATT WORDSWORTH, REPORTER: For a period of about seven years Darcy Dennis was unable to work after suffering a near fatal electric shock in an accident on his family property. He and his wife Kayleen did have a house and some money to invest. In 2008, a friend handed them a brochure from a company called International Sports Online.
DARCY DENNIS: They supposedly had this system that basically returned 28 per cent on your money per month – not year, per month. For me, I thought it was the answer to our problems.
MATT WORDSWORTH: The system involved the company using software to calculate odds on sporting events and then promising to lay bets on behalf of their clients. Darcy Dennis sought a meeting with a company representative.
DARCY DENNIS: I said because I was looking at putting in a large sum of money in that I required a interview with them, and we then arranged to fly down to Sydney and meet with, supposedly, John Dan.
MATT WORDSWORTH: John Dan was that company representative. Darcy Dennis took a copy of his passport as a precaution.
The Dennises then invested more than $120,000, and never saw it again. They have a message for John Dan:
KAYLEEN DENNIS: You rotten bastard, give us our money back. You know? (Getting emotional) Well we don’t have a house anymore. We lost our house. So, it’s nice to know that he’s on the Gold Coast with a couple of houses and we don’t have ours anymore.
MATT WORDSWORTH: Mr Hannaman? Matt Wordsworth from ABC’s 7.30 program.
HANAMAN: G’day, mate.
MATT WORDSWORTH: Just hoping to ask you a few questions about Proficient First.
JOHN HANNAMAN: Yeah. Know nothing about it.
MATT WORDSWORTH: The ABC caught up with Mr Dan, whose real name is John Hannaman, on the Gold Coast.
Does the name Darcy Dennis mean anything to you?
JOHN HANNAMAN: No.
MATT WORDSWORTH: ‘Cause he met you a few years ago. You flew to meet him on the Sunshine Coast and in Sydney.
JOHN HANNAMAN: No.
MATT WORDSWORTH: He took a copy of your passport. Do you remember doing that?
JOHN HANNAMAN: No.
MATT WORDSWORTH: ‘Cause that’s you, isn’t it?
JOHN HANNAMAN: Yep. That’s me, mate, yeah.
MATT WORDSWORTH: Yeah. ‘Cause you gave him this.
JOHN HANNAMAN: No, I didn’t.
MATT WORDSWORTH: ‘Cause he demanded that, you know, if he was gonna invest money with you, that he wanted to see proof of your identification.
JOHN HANNAMAN: Mate, someone’s taken that from me.
MATT WORDSWORTH: And you blanked out the details because at that time you were using the name John Dan. Do you remember that?
JOHN HANNAMAN: No, mate. No.
MATT WORDSWORTH: There are many others keen to speak with Mr Hannaman. This Sydney man was lured to a website called Tablink SportsBet, also linked to John Hannaman. He wishes to remain anonymous because he’s embarrassed that he was fooled.
ANONYMOUS MAN: I invested $5,000 back in January and then I put another $5,000 in March. It was goin’ OK, you know, I doubled my money.
MATT WORDSWORTH: He also introduced his friends to the scheme.
ANONYMOUS MAN II: I sat back and watched it for a while, just playing safe, and I seen them put their money in and then pull the money out and I thought, “This looks like a sure thing.”
MATT WORDSWORTH: Their account balances on the website looked like they were rising almost every day so the system seemed to be paying off. The first sign of trouble came when they attempted to withdraw their supposed profits.
ANONYMOUS MAN: Well, the first response was there was a tax problem, that his accounts had been – that he’d had a problem with Tax Department and he was struggling with money. And then it was the TAB or the bookmaker that he was using couldn’t pay us, and it just kept on going on and on. There was just excuse after excuse.
MATT WORDSWORTH: The group of 20 or so mates lost close to half a million dollars and began to reach out to other victims.
ANONYMOUS MAN II: When I started doing more research, I found out there’s a bloke in Victoria that got ripped off for 130 grand. There’s a bloke in Coffs Harbour that got ripped off for 300. We even heard pensioners gettin’ ripped off. This pensioner, she got ripped off for 130. You know, I just thought, “What type of scum are we dealin’ with here?”
MATT WORDSWORTH: Police estimate there are up to 400 victim who have lost $300 to $400 million through a string of linked websites. Some hired private investigator Ken Gamble.
KEN GAMBLE, PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR: Yeah, as we started to investigate the case we found out that these people were well-organised, they were well set up. This was multiple scams going on at the same time. There were multiple companies being used with fake identities being used to set the companies up. They were basically well and truly well set up to scam people and take their money, and of course they were purporting to be trading, which we found there was no trading going on at all; they were just clearing the money outta bank accounts.