AFL star James Hird allegedly a victim of $275k Melbourne roofing scam

A 23-year-old tradie is accused of scamming $275,000 from Victorian families, including AFL champion James Hird.

Mark Burton was granted bail on Tuesday in the Victorian Supreme Court after being charged in July 2022 with 11 counts of dishonestly obtaining property by deception and one count of dealing with proceeds of crime.

The British national had been arrested at Melbourne airport trying to board a plane to England on July 31, 2022.

Mr Burton, who was in Australia on a bridging visa with his wife and two children, set up Top Rated Roofing in the Melbourne area in April 2022, the court heard.

The Office of Public Prosecutions alleges Mr Burton responded to clients calling his business looking for roof repairs.

The court was told in one instance a complainant had called Mr Burton to remove possums from his roof. After inspecting the building, Mr Burton told the complainant that repairs were needed.

Hird and his wife, Tania, also allegedly paid $31,900 for repairs after inquiring about getting a downpipe replaced and a roof leak fixed.

The alleged offending ranged from charging $50 for one matter to another incident where three sisters allegedly paid $149,000 to have their roofs repaired.

Police are also investigating about 30 more claims that Mr Burton and his business scammed other homeowners across Melbourne after his bank records stated about $600,000 had passed through the accounts.

The court was told Mr Burton and his co-accused had no experience in roofing or as tradespersons.

Mr Burton’s barrister, Jason Gullaci, said his client could be facing up to three years in custody on remand before he goes to trial as the police continue their investigations.

“There really is an uncertainty at this stage of what the allegations will be, what the statements will reveal, what the evidence will reveal because the investigation is still on foot,” Mr Gullaci said.

“There will be some extensive delay until we get to a committal.”

The court was told the matters under investigation were “strikingly” similar to the charges Mr Burton faced.

Justice Michael Croucher granted Mr Burton’s bail despite his concerns about Mr Burton being a flight risk. He found the potential length of time Mr Burton would be held in custody as unacceptable if the trial was delayed as expected.

“One of the difficulties is there are other charges to come, (the police are) not going to be able to have the hand-up brief completed by October 24, and (they) won’t be anywhere near completing the investigation of the 30-odd allege victims,” he said.

“That there could be a delay of in the order of three years or even more between the initial arrest or the determination of a trial in this matter.”

Justice Croucher said Mr Burton’s immigration status meant he was not allowed to work or support his family while on bail, but family members in the UK had provided statements they could financially support him.

He said he would not require Mr Burton to wear an ankle monitor on bail but instead ordered he report to police twice daily.

Mr Burton is also ordered to remain at his Clayton home between 10pm and 6am daily.

He must also surrender his passport or any travel documents and not leave Victoria or Australia.

Justice Croucher warned Mr Burton that he was on a “short leash” and could easily end up back behind bars if he didn’t comply with his strict bail conditions.

The matter will be mentioned again before Melbourne Magistrates Court on December 5, 2022.

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