David Richardson Today Tonight September 15, 2011
Hundreds of ordinary home-owners could be faced with losing their homes after being tricked by a conman working with an insider at a major bank.
Part of an elaborate con, and thinking they were refinancing their mortgages with a trusted bank, fraud victims have in fact been lining the pockets of known criminals. And now tens of millions of dollars have been ripped off and sent overseas.
Patricia Thirup is weeks away from losing everything. The victim of a mortgage fraud, she’s been cheated by con mortgage brokers involved in organised crime, a crooked bank insider and a heartless bank.
Patricia is just one victim of a massive con that may have hit more than 250 families.
"Our identity no longer exists - me or my husband. It's now in the hands of those men, courtesy of the National Australia Bank,” said Patricia.
Patricia Thirup and her husband's problems began when they wanted to refinance their mortgage. They came to a small mortgage broker which displayed the Mortgage House signs.
However it wasn't an official Mortgage House office. It was a con shop.
Mortgage House had no idea the business was trading. It was an unlicensed, unregistered front for the Hells Angels bikie gang.
Its principal brokers, Victor Sumitra and his brother Phillip Sarasin were nothing more than cruel con men, already wanted in two states for property fraud worth tens of millions of dollars.
The Thirups had no idea they were dealing with criminals. “They didn't even resemble what I would think was a criminal," said Patricia.
In fact Victor Sumitra is ghost - a conman’s creation.
His real name is Keo-Phantoyn Vongsaykham - a Laotion national, he runs under 53 aliases, including various versions of his real name.
He is also known as Victor Knight, Victor Summitt, Mark Thavee (a name stolen from a graveyard), and Samart Lion - to name just a few.
Sumitra's brother Phillip Robert Sarasin worked side by side with the wanted conman, and both are named in countless court documents and government inquiries.
Patricia and her husband applied for a loan dependent on a property evaluation. They never signed a mortgage, yet her signature appears on a National Australia Bank mortgage document – a signature that’s suspiciously different to her real one.
"I have got fraudulent bogus signatures on legal bank documents. I have Victoria Identity Fraud with 50-odd aliases. I have police internal paperwork for identity fraud," Patricia said.
"I have got my Veda credit reference file with loans from the National Australia Bank - and none of it is mine."
Approximately $3 million worth of fraudulent loans was taken out in Patricia’s name.
To pull this off the con men needed an insider, which they got in the form of a shonky bank officer inside the NAB - a man named Gary Chan.
Chan wrote up the loans for millions, over-valued the Thirups’ property and took out additional loans for earth-moving equipment, as well as leases on tractors and bulldozers - massive machines which don't even exist.
The phony NAB loans officer then tried to shut the Thirups up with a $100,000 bribe.
"It's shocking what's gone on, and the bank knew. The bank knew that Gary Chan was up to mischief,” said Thirup. “He came here and he offered me a bribe."
Within minutes of this meeting the phony mortgage house office was closed down and Sumitra and his brother vanished. Gary Chan left the property, never to be seen again.
Victor Pace and his wife Kate have also lost everything, two more victims of mortgage broking conman Victor Sumitra, and with loans organised through St George.
"I'm like the other people on TV. I didn't think it would happen to me," said Victor.
The Paces have lost their two outer Sydney homes and a small business at the back. The too supposedly own phantom earth-moving equipment, though they have never see or wanted it - but they are paying for it.
Fraud squad boss detective superintendent Col Dyson has launched Strike Force Kinara into mortgage fraud and property theft, investigating brokers, banks and crime gangs.
"By any definition this is organised crime," said Dyson. "It would be very difficult for them to commit this kind of fraud without a contact inside the banks."
"We're had people who actually masquerade as the owners of houses through the whole process," he explained.
"In some instances the identities of legitimate home owners have been taken over, and mortgages taken out on their properties without their knowledge."
The NAB is repossessing the Thirups’ house, having won a short battle in court, and the decision will soon be appealed.
In a statement the bank states "NAB treats fraud very seriously and we have a number of processes in place to quickly identify fraudulent activity. NAB has zero tolerance for criminal and unethical behaviour by any employee."
However NAB will not discuss Gary Chan and how he helped rip people off.
Associate professor of political economics Dr Evan Jones has spent more than ten years fighting NAB and its treatment of customers. He is continuously astounded that the customer is punished when they are actually the victims.
"You find it absolutely incredible, you gasp at the possibilities," Dr Jones said.
"If they discover that a lending manager is engaged in fraudulent activity they will ultimately take it out on the customer and the victim of that activity."
"I can't find the logic in it, but this is the way the system works," he said.
"The NAB is effectively above the law, and knows it’s above the law so it can do effectively what it wants, and get away with it."
Meanwhile Patricia Thirup is fighting to hang on to her home. She's also hunting the men who did this - the phony brokers and their bogus bank insider, but it's taking its toll.
"I cannot believe what has happened to our family because we didn't do anything wrong," she said.
"I got two and a half years of undiluted hell. Pure undiluted hell.”