A SPEEDBOAT owned by a well-known Australian racing car driver was stolen during a series of thefts along the Murray River, a court has been told.
The County Court heard Mark Winterbottom's Malibu Wake Setter VTX ski boat was one of four boats taken in January and February 2020.
The two men charged in relation to the thefts - Brett Allan Spits, 38, and 45-year-old Lincoln William Mifsud - appeared in the County Court on Friday.
Spits pleaded guilty to two counts of theft and one count of handling stolen goods, while Mifsud pleaded guilty to four charges of handling stolen goods.
The court heard between January 26 and January 27 last year, two Malibu Wake Setter boats were stolen from addresses in the southern NSW town of Mulwala.
The prosecution said Spits towed the stolen boats over the Victorian border using a distinctive white Range Rover. The combined value of the speed boats was $250,000.
The court heard on February 25, a white Toyota Land Cruiser went to an address in Bundalong, near Yarrawonga in Victoria's north-east.
Mr Winterbottom's Malibu Wake Setter VTX ski boat was secured to the carport at the front of the address.
Spits removed the $135,000 boat and trailer from the carport. CCTV footage showed the boat being towed away using the Land Cruiser.
The court heard the next night, Spits stole another Malibu Wake Setter speed boat from an address in Bundalong. The boat and trailer was valued at $140,000.
Police received an anonymous tip-off on February 27 that Mifsud had one of the boats stored in his panel workshop in Echuca.
Officers searched Spits' home and Mifsud's business the next day. Police discovered the Range Rover used in the NSW incidents at Spits' address.
Read other court: Echuca accused released on bail after alleged police car ramming
The court heard Mifsud was at his business at the time of the search warrant and was cooperative with police.
One of the speed boats was found at the rear of the panel workshop. The registration sticker had been pulled off the hull of the boat and a false registration plate had been attached to the trailer.
Mifsud offered to take the police to the location of the other stolen boats. Officers found the remaining boats in another shed in Echuca. The boats all had their registration stickers and plates removed.
CCTV footage from that shed showed Spits, Mifsud, and an unknown male at the property at 10.39pm on February 27.
The vision showed Spits backing one of the stolen boats into the shed while Mifsud was in view.
The court heard Spits told police he was not the only person who drove the Range Rover. He also denied being in Mulwala or Yarrawonga around the times the boats went missing.
Mifsud initially denied knowing any of the four boats were stolen, before later saying he only became aware of the thefts on February 27.
The court heard Mifsud had no prior convictions, while Spits had a relevant prior criminal history.
Spits' defence counsel Zarah Garde-Wilson told the court her client was heavily involved in ski racing, which was how he met Mifsud.
Ms Garde-Wilson said Spits had run a successful business in Melbourne before he had to declare bankruptcy in 2017.
The defence counsel said Spits moved to Echuca with his family, but his mental health declined and he started using drugs like cocaine.
Ms Garde-Wilson said her client was remorseful and a psychological report showed time in prison would be "especially detrimental" to Spits' mental health.
The defence counsel submitted that a jail term with a lengthy community corrections order would be an appropriate sentence.
Mifsud's defence counsel Michael Turner told the court his client was a "family man" who ran his own business in Echuca.
Mr Turner said Mifsud never used drugs and barely drank alcohol.
The defence counsel told the court that Spits was the "architect" of the offending and Mifsud only followed Spits' request to find a storage space for the stolen boats.
But prosecutor David Gray said Mifsud had a greater role in the operation than the defence was detailing.
Mr Gray said Mifsud had used an excuse to rent the Echuca shed about a month prior to the search warrant.
The prosecutor said both Mifsud and Spits should be sentenced to a jail term with a non-parole period.
Judge Sarah Dawes said she would need some time to decide on sentencing.
She adjourned the matter to a date yet to be fixed. The bail of the two men was extended to the next court date.
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can access our trusted content: