Travel agent ripped off bikie boss

A former travel agent who operated a Ponzi scheme, defrauding clients and a former bikie boss, has been jailed.

A fraudster travel agent who left clients stranded overseas has been jailed for more than three years.

Arthur Zacharias, 49, operated a Ponzi scheme and stole hundreds of thousands of dollars by defrauding the business he worked for, his clients and a former Hells Angels bike boss.

The court was told the fraudster also tried to purchase the Axis Travel agency in December 2015 with a false bank deposit receipt of $50,000.

District Court Judge Simon Stretton said Zacharias’s “serious and protracting” offending caused his victims to feel “hopelessness”, “misery”, “anger” and “frustration”.

He said Zacharias also made no attempt to pay back any money.

“Your behaviour resulted in significant trauma for a number of your victims as they realised the travel arrangements they thought had been made on their behalf had not been made,” Judge Stretton told the court on Thursday.

“Indeed, more than one was stranded in a foreign country, with you only purchasing a one-way ticket when they thought a return ticket had been purchased.

“It is clear from the facts that the significant amount of funds taken were just used by you for your own personal purposes.

“The case against you is overwhelming. Not have you nor do you intend to make any form of reparation.”

The former travel agent pleaded guilty to 19 counts of theft, two counts of deception, one count of dishonest dealing with documents, two counts of misuse of personal identification or information, and two counts of dishonest manipulation of a machine.

Zacharias’s offending occurred between July 2014 and June 2016 while he worked as a subcontractor for Axis Travel.

During that period, he was also sentenced for three counts of obtaining a financial advantage.

For his current offending, Zacharias was sentenced to five-and-a-half years imprisonment with a non-parole period of three years and two months.

Following that jail time, the fraudster will then spend a further nine months behind bars to complete the previous sentence for three counts of obtaining a financial advantage.

Under those charges, he wrongly claimed $35,211.55 through the Newstart allowance that he was not entitled to.

Outside of court, Axis Travel director Max Najar said he and the business shouldered about 55 per cent of the costs incurred by Zacharias’s offending, while 45 per cent was covered through insurance.

In a previous hearing, he said Zacharias’ crimes amounted to more than $596,894 as well as lost time and health issues.

“It would have been nice if it was a longer sentence,” he told reporters on Thursday.

“It has impacted us on our health, our clients’ health and the financial health of the business.”

Mr Najar explained his former employee’s dealings were “easily” undetected because he used false credits cards, separate phone numbers and told clients not to contact the business and deal with him directly.

“As soon as we discovered it, we dismissed him immediately … had he (not be arrested and charged) he would still be on the streets causing all the havoc in the travel industry.”

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