Accused gold scammers arrested six years after $150K deal
ACCUSED scammers have been extradited to the Coast to face charges more than six years after a Noosa hotel room gold deal allegedly left a man $150,000 out of pocket.
Jessica Ann Groff, 40, and Peter Milton Walker, 70, were taken into custody in northern NSW on Thursday night by police for outstanding warrants in Queensland.
The pair, who remained in custody while their matters were mentioned in Ballina Local Court on Friday morning, were released into the custody of Noosa detectives who arrived with them at Maroochydore Watchhouse on Friday afternoon.
Ms Groff tried to shield her face from a waiting cameraman as they were walked from the carpark into the watchhouse.
She and Peter Walker will face fraud charges for allegedly playing a role in a fraud scheme that left a Papua New Guinea man swindled out of $150,000 worth of gold.
According to court documents, a Papua New Guinean man, Whynn Thomas, had entered into a business agreement in May 2013 with Joe Bronston and Nathan Awat, who were field agents for gold buying.
"Mr Bronston and Mr Awat had convinced Mr Thomas to deposit $300,000 kina (PNG dollars) which equals $150,000 into the private account of Mr Awat," court documents read.
"The victim has also given a further $10,000 kina to Bronston to go on a gold buying business trip.
"Mr Bronston has returned with 1800g of gold and the victim has also added another 1091g to that being a total of 2491g of gold."
Mr Bronston and Mr Thomas then travelled to Brisbane International Airport on July 25, 2013, where the pair met with Chris Walker, who Mr Thomas believed to be the gold broker in Australia.
Together, Mr Bronston, Mr Thomas and Chris Walker travelled to the Holiday Inn at Noosa where the 2419g of gold was handed over to Chris Walker, who then left "for a number of hours" with the gold.
"When he returned he stated there was only 1831g of gold present," the court documents read.
"It is alleged that (Ms Groff) has removed 660g of gold from the original weight as weighed by customs at the Brisbane International Airport."
After Mr Thomas was told by Chris Walker it would take "several days for the gold to be processed", Mr Thomas returned to PNG with a $10,000 down payment given to him by Chris Walker.
When Mr Thomas failed to receive the remainder of the money owed to him, he returned to Noosa on August 20, 2013 and confronted Chris Walker demanding payment for the outstanding gold.
"Chris Walker then informed the victim that he had invested $150,000 of the victim's money, in addition to $50,000 that he had contributed, into a PNG refinery business," court documents read.
However, Chris Walker was unable to produce any evidence of this transaction or proof of legitimacy of the PNG refinery business.
It was then Mr Thomas was introduced to Chris Walker's father, Peter Walker, who the court heard convinced the PNG national "the purchase is a good deal and that he needs to return to PNG and buy some land near the airport in order to set up the business".
Mr Thomas returned to PNG and purchased a block of land near the Port Moresby Airport worth $70,000 kina, or about $30,000.
The court heard that after the land purchase, Mr Thomas was expecting the arrival of Peter and Chris Walker to attend PNG to sight the land, but the pair never arrived.
Through email correspondence, Mr Thomas received several excuses as to why the Walkers couldn't come to PNG, with the last correspondence recorded in October 2013.
Mr Thomas returned to Australia from PNG in attempt to locate the Walkers but was unable to find them and reported the matter to police.
Chris Walker was arrested on November 18, last year in Queensland and was remanded in custody due to being a high flight risk.
Police allege Chris and Peter Walker also have an alias last name of Lavelle, which they both have previously used in the past.
Ms Groff and Peter Walker will appear before Maroochydore Magistrates Court on Saturday.