Three real estate agents are charged over investigation into rental properties allegedly being used to cultivate cannabis and rort Covid rent relief payments
- Three real estate agents have been charged for cultivating cannabis in drug labs
- The agents used their jobs to fraudulently acquire Covid rent relief payments
- The properties listed for the payments were used by the syndicate as drug labs
- Police arrested and charged six people involved in the operation on Wednesday
Three real estate agents are among six people charged by police for allegedly using people’s names without their knowledge to gain Covid rent relief payments while using the properties as hydroponic drug labs.
From July to August last year, police dismantled several drug labs used to cultivate cannabis at homes in the Fairfield area in Sydney’s south-west. Police seized drugs worth a combined estimated street value of $2million.
It was soon discovered the drug labs were connected to a broader crime syndicate.
Officers linked to Fairfield Police Area Command established Strike Force Delbo to investigate the syndicate involved with the cultivation of cannabis in different homes.
Three real estate agents are among six people charged by police for allegedly using people’s names to gain Covid relief payments for properties in the Fairfield area they were using as hydroponic drug labs. Pictured: One of the men arrested by police
Investigators eventually found real estate agents involved in the syndicate had used their positions in the property industry to sub-lease homes to unsuspecting members of the public to fraudulently gain Covid rental relief payments.
During the investigation, police identified several large-scale fraudulent applications submitted under the NSW Government’s Covid Residential Tenancy Support Package scheme.
‘We will be alleging these people used their position as trusted insiders in the real estate industry to defraud their own clientele and public money meant for those who need it most,’ said Fairfield City Police Area Command Crime Manager Detective Inspector Luke Scott in a statement.
‘The properties that were allegedly utilised by this syndicate to grow cannabis were subleased to members of the public who had no idea their name was on the lease agreement, as was the case when it came to the fraudulently obtained rental relief and bond payments.
‘The nature of this fraud is particularly scandalous and predatory; the community won’t tolerate it, and those involved now have our court system to answer to,’ he added.
On Wednesday, officers arrested and charged six men that were part of the syndicate.
Investigators eventually found real estate agents involved in the syndicate had used their positions in the property industry to sub-lease homes to unsuspecting members of the public to fraudulently gain Covid rental relief payments. Pictured: An investigator during an arrest
On Wednesday, officers arrested and charged six men that were part of the syndicate. Pictured: Money seized at one of the arrests
One of the men charged with numerous offences and taken into custody. He will appear in Fairfield Local Court on Thursday among four others from the syndicate who were arrested and charged on the same day
One of those arrested was 52-year-old Fairfield real estate agent and alleged ringleader Nasser Kalache during a vehicle stop in Cecil Hills.
Kalache was charged with a range of offences including knowingly directing the activities of a criminal group, cultivating prohibited plants, dishonestly obtain financial advantage by deception and knowingly dealing with the proceeds of crime.
Claudyous Isaac, 44, was arrested soon after Kalache at a home in Bonnyrigg before police executed a search warrant at a house in Cecil Hills and seized several items.
Later that day, fellow real estate agents Antonio Fedele, 35, and Sabrina Losciano, 37, were arrested at Fairfield Police Station and charged with numerous offences including making a false document to obtain financial gain.
Muhammad Al-Nasiri, 35, from Smithfield and 23-year-old Habeb Tomka were taken into custody and charged. Tomka was arrested by police in Marrickville.
Isaac, Al-Nasiri and Tomka were charged with cultivating a prohibited plant and participating in a criminal group.
Kalache, Isaac, Fedele, Losciano and Al-Nasiri were refused bail and will face Fairfield Local Court on Thursday.
Tomka faced Newtown Local Court on Wednesday and was granted strict conditional bail. He will reappear in Fairfield Local Court in late May.