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Sunshine Coast couple Malcolm and Suzanne Maiden involved friends in Nigerian fraud scam

* Kay Dibben
* From: The Sunday Mail (Qld)
* March 16, 2011 11:20AM

IT was a Nigerian scam with a unique twist.

Sunshine Coast couple Malcolm and Suzanne Maiden got caught up in a Nigerian oil investment scam but ended up ripping off friends and colleagues by getting them to send money overseas.

A fraud squad detective visited the Maidens three times, warning them that their “investment” was really a scam and if they got others involved they could be charged.

Builder Paul Thomson and his wife Debra trusted Malcolm Maiden – the earthmoving contractor they had known for 15 years – until he cost them their Sunshine Coast home, business and life savings.

Maiden asked them for a loan of $35,000 in 2005. They gave him the money, never realising they would end up being defrauded of almost $260,000 over three years.

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The Thomsons were forced to sell their Alexandra Headland home in 2008 and have since been travelling around Australia in a ute, living in a caravan, looking for work.

“We’ve lost everything,” Mrs Thomson, 52, said last week.

“I wish we’d never set eyes on him.”

Superintendent Brian Hay, of the Fraud and Corporate Crime Group, said more than 20 Queensland victims had lost more than $6 million as a result of the scam, with some losing houses and businesses.

In 2007, fraud squad Detective Senior Constable Graeme Edwards took a visiting Nigerian financial crime investigator to see the Maidens to tell them they were caught up in a common Nigerian scam.

But an “arrogant” Malcolm Maiden thought he knew better.

“I believe they were single-minded in their belief that they had to keep the dream alive – to get back what they had invested,” Supt Hay said.

On Monday, Malcolm Maiden, 50, was jailed for four years, suspended after 12 months, after pleading guilty to five fraud offences involving more than $300,000. Maiden had defrauded another Sunshine Coast business contact of more than $47,000.

Suzanne Maiden, 40, was released on a suspended jail sentence in July last year after pleading guilty to two fraud charges.

The pair are believed to be Australia’s first Nigerian scam victims to be convicted of fraud because they dishonestly got others to pour money into the scam.

The Thomsons said they first lent money to the Maidens after they told them they needed to pay tax on an investment and so they could send their sick daughter overseas for treatment.

“My husband said, `I trust him with my life’, but he took our lives,” Mrs Thomson said.

Malcolm Maiden told them there were “two huge boxes of money in a secure building at the Reserve Bank of South Africa”, valued at $22 million.

But he said the money had to have serial and contractors’ codes stamped in black ink chemically removed from it at enormous cost.

The Thomsons did not realise it was a common “black ink” Nigerian scam.

In 2006, Maiden got the Thomsons to give up more than $90,000 to wash and dry the money and pay for phony “anti-terrorism, anti-money laundering and anti-drug dealers’ certificates”.

In 2008, the Thomsons questioned Maiden after reading about Nigerian scams on the internet.

Maiden audaciously told them he had been visited by a Queensland fraud detective and a Nigerian official, and said they had verified the investments were legitimate.

Mr Thomson twice travelled to Spain with Maiden, and he and wife Debra also flew to London with him in failed attempts to meet Maiden’s “contacts” and get money released. Mrs Thomson said the Maidens ignored their calls.

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March 22, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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