Sports clubs are huge moneymakers in Australia, particularly when it comes to the pokies. There’s money to be made on all sides. The clubs generate millions from patrons of the poker machines, while lucky players hit substantial prizes on a regular basis. But there’s one other genre that looks to make a profit off the pokies, and that’s criminals. The most recent arrest related to poker machine burglaries came last week when an Echuca man was charged with 18 counts for his alleged involvement in a 6-month crime spree that netted more than $250,000.
The 25 year old man was arrested after police investigators searched two locations, finding evidence that he was directly involved in multiple robberies at sports clubs throughout Victoria and New South Wales. The criminal activities took place over a 6 month period that began on May 22nd, with the last known incident occurring just three weeks ago on November 5th. Authorities finally caught up to the as-yet unnamed burglar on the night of Monday, November 17th.
The robberies took place at pokies clubs in the Victorian communities of Kerang, Kyabram, Tatura and Benalla, as well as the NSW communities of Moama, Barham and Mathoura. The criminals were so brash that they actually pilfered the poker machines of some locations more than once. They entered the Kerang Sports and Entertainment Venue two times in a single week, stealing the cash from several pokies and damaging a multitude of devices along the way. Another sports club was also burglarized on two occasions, while yet another was stricken a total of three times throughout the 6 month crime spree.
Detective Senior Constable Glenn Palmer said they were able to connect the robberies by surveillance videos that showed the brash thieves at the scene of the crime, always donning similar hoodies and targeting only the poker machines before making a quick escape. However, the number of assailants would vary between three and four.
As of now, the 25 year old Echuca man has been the only one to be arrested in the case. Palmer reported that the investigation is still underway, and that we can expect to see more arrests in the future. The accused man who was arrested last week has been released on bail, but was given strict orders that he must appear in the Echuca Magistrates’ Court on the morning of Tuesday, December 16th.
This is the second pokies related crime spree Australian authorities have dealt with recently. A similar (but apparently unconnected) crime spree took place from June 2nd to August 11th. Two arrests were made in that case after investigators closed in on what they believe to be a Middle Eastern crime syndicate responsible for the brazen robberies of 8 different clubs in various suburbs of Melbourne that amounted to over $100,000. However, that investigation continues as well. According to surveillance videos in that case, at least four men were involved in some of the burglaries, said to be aged 16 to 25. Thus far, only two men from Roxburgh Park, ages 16 and 22, have been arrested.