A SECOND magistrate has criticised police for its handling of serious fraud allegations against three Bendigo men accused of stealing identities to import drugs from interstate and overseas.
Dean Poot, 25, has been charged with trafficking a commercial quantity of drugs with the support of co-accused Zachary Murray and Daniel Patullo, all of Bendigo, who face less serious drug charges.
The three appeared in the Bendigo Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday for another committal mention, but the court heard the case has still made little progress.
The alleged fraud case – which includes allegations the men used stolen driver’s licences, Medicare and credit cards to create false identities – was only allocated to a local Detective Sergeant this week, the court was told. The brief of evidence was also only given to defence counsels on Monday this week.
Poot has been in custody for almost four months since he was arrested during a raid on his Strathdale residence on May 17.
His defence counsel raised the possibility of a second attempt at bail in the coming weeks.
The three are next due to appear in court on November 9, when police expected to have completed more work on the alleged fraud case.
Prosecutor Marwan El-Asmar said the fraud and drug charges could be separated to help move the case forward, but it was undesirable.
Magistrate David Faram said it was clear there were some issues with the case.
“It’s a bit of a mess,” he said.
Mr El-Asmar agreed, and said “it’s been a mess from the outset”.
Mr Faram said it was not the fault of the police informant, who was only acting on orders from above.
Mr Faram was the second magistrate to describe the fraud case as a “mess”, after Magistrate Jennifer Tregent made the same comments at the last committal mention in Bendigo on August 17.
For the second hearing in a row, court costs were awarded to the defence counsels representing Poot, Patullo and Murray.
Poot is alleged to have created false identities online to import drugs using the “dark web”, including up to $100,000 of ice. He is also accused of sending one bank account into $88,000 in debt.