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Drought-affected Queensland horse stud owner loses $9,000 in alleged hay fraud scheme

Nicole Hegarty, Tuesday January 28, 2020 - 14:24 EDT
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Hay supplies have been stretched due to drought-driven demand and a reduction in growth. - ABC

A drought-affected Queensland horse stud owner is warning other landholders to be vigilant after losing $9,000 to an alleged hay fraud scheme.

Nicole Armstrong, from Wondai in the South Burnett, purchased 600 bales of hay from a seller listed in a Tamworth buy swap and sell lift-out before Christmas but after more than a month they still had not arrived.

She said she researched the seller before agreeing to the sale but later found out the man was operating under a different name.

"All through we did question and hope we were doing the right thing but it's very difficult when you are dealing interstate," she said.

"It's very hard to get [hay], we understand that. They don't want to come up here and not get paid and we don't want to pay everything and not receive.

"We thought we did all the right things, did all the checks.

"It's hard because hay is advertised the one minute, sold the next."

Drought intensifies loss

Ms Armstrong said it was the first time she'd had to purchase hay and she was trying to prepare for another dry year.

Ongoing drought has forced up the price of hay from $50 to $100 a tonne as supply dwindles and demand surges.

Ms Armstrong said her family had to sacrifice other activities to pay for the hay and being caught in the alleged fraud scheme had made a difficult year even harder.

"This was the first time we'd had to go interstate for hay but it was becoming quite hard to get in our area," she said.

"So we thought we'd make it worth someone's load and ordered more than we were initially going to.

"It's made it very tough so we'll just have to regroup and take one day at a time.

"Hopefully we'll be able to recoup it, otherwise we'll probably be eating baked beans on toast for a good while."

Recent rain welcome but little relief short term

The drought-declared region has received much-needed rain in the past fortnight, but Ms Armstrong said that had done little to ease the pain of losing $9,000.

"It will take probably another 12 months or more before things will be getting back on track again," she said.

"We still will be looking for hay for the next six months, 12 months. We won't get much growth now until September."

Ms Armstrong urged anyone else who may have been defrauded to come forward to police.

"Hopefully by people coming forward we can wiggle them out and have it to the point where there's no-one out there trying to defraud people out of dollars for nothing," she said.

"We'll just have to look at our options for recovery of money."

Victims urged to come forward

The Queensland Police Rural Crime Squad said it was not aware of any similar complaints in the state.

Police have urged anyone who has been caught up in similar schemes to contact them.

Alternatively anyone with information has been asked to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

Man charged over similar scheme in NSW

Last week of tens of thousands of dollars.

New South Wales police charged the man with 13 counts of dishonestly obtaining financial disadvantage by deception.

It's alleged he fraudulently obtained more than $40,000 from 13 victims after requesting an initial deposit but not delivering product.


© ABC 2020

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