NSW drought scammer set to be jailed
A "reprobate" Sydney scammer who fleeced drought-ravaged farmers by taking money for hay he never delivered has sobbed as he was told he would be jailed.
Matthew Lewis Small became tearful and put his head in his hands as he was refused bail after pleading guilty to a hay-bale scam that robbed farmers of more than $40,000.
Scam victim Nicky Lyle from Fox Hill Farm in the Southern Highlands paid Small a $5400 deposit for a hay delivery that never arrived.
"I was surprised someone could stoop so low," she told AAP.
"With all the fires and the other trouble, it surprises me there is someone out there purposefully doing this.
"We were thinking maybe he's just hopeless. It turns out he was just a crook."
Sporting a heavy beard, Small uttered "no" as magistrate Theo Tsavdaridis told him he was set to be jailed for the offences.
"It will ultimately lead to a term of custodial imprisonment being imposed," Mr Tsavdaridis said.
The magistrate told Fairfield Local Court on Friday that Small's crimes were made worse by the fact he was ripping off people who had been financially and emotionally crippled by drought and the bushfire crisis.
"It can be described as calculated, relentless and unscrupulous and bears a high degree of deception," Mr Tsavdaridis said.
"It is reprobate, disingenuous targeting of vulnerable members of the community against the backdrop of the financial struggles currently faced by those who have been affected by persistent drought conditions in rural NSW."
Small, 27, used a series of aliases, including Mattie Maatan and Matthew Cortez.
He stole the identity of a former acquaintance to rip off 14 victims across NSW and Queensland between August and December 2019.
He scammed a total of $43,500 after posting fake ads to Facebook buy-sell groups and Gumtree for heavily discounted lucerne hay bales.
He failed to deliver the product after receiving a deposit.
Small was arrested when police raided a Villawood property on Thursday morning and found him sleeping in a granny flat.
A remorseful Small told officers: "It's all on the iPad in there. Everything you need is on there."
He also admitted he may have committed more offences and police are urging any other victims to come forward.
Documents lodged with the court reveal Small told officers he "acted out of desperation to pay off a debt he owed to an unnamed person associated with an outlaw motorcycle gang".
Small applied for bail, arguing he was caught up with the wrong crowd and feared for his safety if jailed.
But Mr Tsavdaridis sided with police, pointing out Small had been convicted in his absence of three similar offences related to the sale of firewood last year, all of which involved posting fake ads on the internet.
The accused failed to appear in court on those matters and when police arrested him on Thursday he had four outstanding warrants in his name.
He was also on a good behaviour bond relating to domestic violence offences.
Small will return to court for sentencing on his prior offences on February 7 before being sentenced for his current fraud matters on March 6.
© AAP 2020