Loan fraud linked to drug houses

A rogue home loan broker obtained more than $17 million of fraudulent loans for clients, some of whom used the money to buy marijuana grow houses, police allege.

Investigations are continuing into Kieu Thi Thanh Huynh, who has approved more than $100 million in loans in the past seven years, and her clients. The 43-year-old, also known as Kim Huynh, has been charged with 93 counts of obtaining financial advantage by deception, making false documents and using false documents.

A further 30 people have been charged with one count each of obtaining financial advantage by deception, making false documents and using false documents as part of the police operation code named Squid.

Those charged are of Vietnamese origin and range from 21 to 68 years old. They were arrested between February 25 and March 8.

The alleged scammers have been bailed to appear at the Melbourne Magistrates Court for a committal mention on May 24.

A police spokeswoman said there may be more arrests.

”Inquiries are continuing in relation to a number of associates who investigators allege also purchased homes using false documents and gained financial advantage by deception.”

Police executed five search warrants at three houses in St Albans, Sunshine and Sunshine North on February 25, seizing computers, financial documents, phones and jewellery.

Grow houses bought with loans allegedly obtained by Ms Huynh were uncovered during Operation Taxa, which has resulted in millions of dollars worth of marijuana and property being seized from dozens of houses, mostly in Melbourne’s north-west.

Police will allege loan documents linked to Ms Huynh were found in several of the houses.

Officers from the Criminal Proceeds Squad and E-Crime Squad, along with forensic accountants, are involved in the investigation.

Fairfax Media reported last year that grow houses raided during Operation Taxa had mostly been linked to Vietnamese crime families, who were increasingly buying houses in new residential estates in Melbourne’s outer suburbs as opposed to renting them.

The trend had shown the increased financial clout of marijuana traffickers, police said at the time.

Head of the Criminal Proceeds Squad Detective Senior Sergeant Andrew Kerr said the squad had seized $25.2 million worth of property linked to marijuana in 2012, an increase of about $700,000 compared with the previous year.

He said the squad had detected that a significant amount of money was being sent overseas by those involved in the marijuana trade in Victoria. ”This is money that is being sent overseas by people that would appear to have no legitimate sources of income in Australia.

”A lot of these people are on Centrelink benefits, yet somehow managed to send significant amounts of money overseas. How is that happening? And why is that happening?”

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