Professional Melbourne Beggars Caught In A Criminal Syndicate

, Professional Melbourne Beggars Caught In A Criminal Syndicate

Professional Melbourne Beggars Caught In A Criminal Syndicate

The percentage of homeless people in Australia has grown significantly, by more than 14 per cent, in 5 years. It has increased mainly in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. Following a new trend in the CBD of Victoria, professional fake beggars have angered the public. While the majority of people begging in Melbourne are vulnerable and in need, there are a small number of professional beggars who have been targeting the city and as a result of this, seven people have been charged with begging-related offences and possessing property suspected of being the proceeds of crime. In 2015, a study shared by the ABC found some professional beggars were earning up to $400 a day. In the same year, another study conducted by the Salvation Army, found nine out of 135 beggars interviewed admitted to being professionals and also admitted that it was a very profitable way of earning an income.

THE STORY

It is reported today that alleged professional beggars have been arrested in Melbourne for duping generous Australians out of their cash and sending it to their hometown, China. Elderly fake beggars have each been earning hundreds of dollars a day and sending the cash back to China electronically in the scam. The offenders use begging bowls and money pouches, with their normal clothes hidden under specially made “street” garments. Key CBD intersections have been targeted, including the corners of Elizabeth, Swanston, Flinders and Bourke streets.

The seven people who are charged with begging and possessing suspected proceeds of crime after being arrested with about $1000 in cash on CBD streets this week. The group had come to Australia on tourist visas allegedly as part of a criminal syndicate and claimed to be homeless, but all had accommodation, police said.

“(These) people have flown into the country just to make money off Melbournians’ goodwill. We’re a generous bunch but we’ve got a zero tolerance for that sort of behaviour,” Acting Inspector John Travaglini told ABC radio today. He also stated that “It’s really hard to get a real understanding of how much money these people are making because of the fact they are exchanging some of the currency.” Insp. Travaglini said the “professional beggars” had been caught with receipts showing money collected had been converted into Chinese currency.

IS BEGGING AN OFFENCE?

There are certain parts of the country that have anti-begging laws in place. Over time, it has become an unacceptable type of behaviour. Although it is not an offence in NSW and Western Australia, the Police can tell a person to move on if their conduct is likely to cause injury to another, damage to property or pose a risk to the public.

For example, in Victoria “begging or gathering alms” is a criminal offence pursuant to section 49A of the Summary Offences Act 1966 (Vic) and is punishable by 12 months imprisonment. Since profiting from ill-gotten gain is also prohibited, beggars have had their cash confiscated as ‘proceeds of crime’.

What are Proceeds of Crime?

Dealing with property suspected of being proceeds of crime can be found under section 193(C) Crimes Act 1900 (NSW). Given the serious and complex nature of this type of offence, oftentimes the authorities will utilise the Confiscation of Proceeds of Crime Act 1989 (NSW) to confiscate the property that is being dealt with for further investigation. Due to this, we highly recommend you seek a robust senior solicitor to represent you.

THE LAW

This offence of dealing with property suspected of being proceeds of crime is set out in sections 193B and 193C of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).

Under section 193B, a person who knowingly deals with the proceeds of crime is guilty of a criminal offence. Furthermore, a person who knowingly deals with the proceeds of crime and intends to conceal the fact that it is proceeds of crime is guilty of a more serious criminal offence. You are also guilty of a criminal offence if you are reckless in dealing with the proceeds of crime.

Under section 193C, a person is guilty of this offence if the person deals with property and there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the property being dealt with is proceeds of crime. At the time of dealing with such property, it must be worth at least $100,000.

This section also outlines a lesser offence, which involves a person dealing with property, where there are reasonable grounds that the property in question is proceeds of crime and is worth less than $100,000 at the time that the property is dealt with.

Maximum Penalties

Where there are reasonable grounds to suspect the property is proceeds of crime the maximum penalty if heard in the Local Court is two years imprisonment and/or a fine of $5,500.00.

Where you are reckless to the property being proceeds of crime the maximum penalty in the District Court is 10 years imprisonment.

Where you know the property is proceeds of crimes the maximum penalty is 15 years imprisonment and when you know intending to conceal that fact, the maximum penalty is 20 years imprisonment.

Please note that the penalties mentioned are reserved for the worse case offending and are unlikely to be the penalty you receive.

To learn more about the offence of proceeds of crime, click this link to view our website.

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