3 October 2023

'Naïve' courier sentenced for role in $70,000 scam of elderly widow

| Albert McKnight
men leaving court

Amarish Kumar Patel (right) was represented by his lawyer, Michael Kukulies-Smith of Kamy Saeedi Law (left). Photo: Albert McKnight.

A large “extortion racket” scammed $70,000 from an elderly widow, leaving her with little money.

But a “naïve” courier involved in the case, 29-year-old Amarish Kumar Patel, avoided being sent back to jail when he was convicted and sentenced to a six-month good behaviour order in the ACT Magistrates Court on Monday (25 September).

He had pleaded guilty to dealing with and attempting to deal with the proceeds of crime.

A person had called the widow over the phone and told her she owed money to what she thought was the ‘National Crime Authority’. He demanded she repay her debts, otherwise he would send someone to “knock her off”.

She was scared he would send someone to kill her if she didn’t pay, but after handing over an initial $10,000, the person began calling her almost daily demanding more.

Magistrate Jane Campbell said this person would arrange for someone to go to her house, where she gave them the money.

Patel’s role was to pick up the money on two occasions, in December 2022 and January 2023, but police were watching the second time and arrested him.

He admitted depositing the money from the first collection, about $7000, into various bank accounts and said he had been instructed to put the money in amounts of $1000 or less to avoid detection from the police or banks.

READ ALSO Daniel Grech broke dog’s leg by throwing it down stairs in ‘extremely cruel act’

Patel, who was born in India and is now a permanent resident of Australia, spent eight days in custody before he was granted bail.

In a statement read to the court, the widow said she was afraid of the scammers “coming back to kill [her]” because she had put one of those involved in the scheme in jail and she no longer felt safe at home.

“I didn’t have much money left as he pretty much took all of my money,” she said of the scammer.

“When I first came to police I still felt this was all my fault.”

man leaving court

Amarish Kumar Patel, 29, was sentenced to a good behaviour order. Photo: Albert McKnight.

Patel’s lawyer, Michael Kukulies-Smith of Kamy Saeedi Law, said the person leading the scam had limited text communication with his client, mostly around using him as “a somewhat naïve courier” to go and pick up the two collections of cash.

He said the person paid Patel $200 for the first collection and promised to pay him $200 for the second collection, but aside from that his client had no more engagement with what was going on.

Mr Kukulies-Smith said his client accepted he had been involved in something he didn’t understand and noted that he hadn’t done anything threatening to the widow.

READ ALSO Alleged robber accused of knife-point carjacking at Westfield Belconnen refused bail

Prosecutor Sam Bargwanna argued general deterrence was an important factor in sentencing.

“If you get asked to go and pick up money for someone you don’t know, you need to be aware there is a possibility it will be proceeds of crime,” he said.

Magistrate Campbell said it was important that Patel was sentenced only on his offence, as while it occurred as part of a “much bigger extortion racket”, he didn’t have any more involvement.

“As he said, he was just following instructions,” she said, adding he was actually employed as a courier driver.

The court did hear that the person behind the scam has not been identified.

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.