Former AFL player Craig O’Brien, a prominent victim of alleged fraudulent property and investment scams by preying ex-Gold Coaster Glenn Duker has told Crikey he’s been financially ruined by the swindle and that it’s cost him two Coast homes.
A furious O’Brien remains incredulous at how “the system” failed him in the aftermath of being deceived by the former high living solicitor turned pastor, who’s left scores of victims scattered around Australia as a result of alleged fraudulent activities going back at least six years from 2008. But O’Brien, who played 102 games at three AFL clubs between 1989-97 and now coaches in the local senior league, has told Crikey that as much as he’s upset at being duped by the “shonky” Duker, he’s even more upset at the way corporate watchdog ASIC and legal advice has failed him.
Some estimates put the overall alleged swindles engineered by the disgraced former head pastor at the Gold Coast chapter of Melbourne-based Pentecostal Revival Centres International (RCI) church at Mermaid Beach at somewhere between $30-$40 million. It’s alleged the high-flying pastor lived a life of extravagant luxury while based on the Coast and continued to do so even after being stood down from his post.
Church leadership out of Melbourne continues to defend Duker as an innocent victim of the GFC. But although ASIC is now investigating him and his business associates, with civil litigation also pending against him and others from various third parties, O’Brien says this has come too late for him. In fact he is scathing of an earlier ASIC intervention that failed to shut Duker down following complaints made to it in 2006.
Get Crikey FREE to your inbox every weekday morning with the Crikey Worm.
“What’s happened has been real hard for me,” O’Brien explains.
“Between what I’ve lost off him and what I’ve had to get rid of to make ends meet, I’m about $900,000 out of pocket. I originally met him through a real estate agent who told me he had someone who was interested in buying my home which was for sale. He (Duker) had a consultant who looked at it and said that they loved the property, and then explained what they did.
“I would get $940,000 on the contract price of $1.35 million and we agreed he owed me $45,000 a year on interest with the balance to be paid off in two years. So I gave him debtor finance where he paid me 70% of the purchase price and I agreed for him to pay the other 30% at 10% interest. But it was going to be $380,000 paid in the first year and another $48,000 to be paid in the second year plus interest.
“At the time I said I wasn’t too familiar with this sort of deal and I needed to go to a solicitor who was familiar with this. He (Duker) recommended I go to a [legal firm] here on the Coast where he had done deals before. We then checked him out with a fine tooth comb which cost me $5000 to do all the searches. But then after agreeing the deal in July 2007, I started to get alarmed because he was meant to pay me three months in advance, but I never got the first payment on the balance.
“I was making calls to him and he kept saying how he wanted to catch up with me, but he was stalling all the time. Then three months into the agreement he now owes me two lots of interest which was more than $20,000 and still not returning calls. Then I accidentally ran into him at the airport and I put the hard word on him and said: ‘Listen mate start paying me what you owe’’ Then he paid me $20,000 and I got nothing after that.
“What made it so concerning was then when I rang my lawyer to help get this sorted out; he said it didn’t surprise him as he owed him money too. And I said: ‘Well why did you let me go ahead with the deal if he owes you money?'”
To which O’Brien told Crikey, the lawyer did not respond.
“I had sought legal advice because it was unfamiliar to me because I’m a builder where I buy and renovate houses and then sell them. Normally I can carry that sort of (financial) weight for 12 months. I had borrowed $200,000 from an in-law to buy my next house. But once I realised Duker was going bad; because I had used his money to cover the mortgage, I then had to sell my property for $200,000 under market value just to get out.”
“I couldn’t afford the repayments and didn’t want to default on that because I buy and sell property. I do one property a year on my own and also carry out work on other people’s properties. I’ve still got a $60,000 mortgage on that.”
O’Brien has now got together with other victims including a Gold Coast woman who having lost her home to Duker, was forced to live in her car with no means of support.
“There are four of us here who’ve got together with similar situations where we’re all doing it as hard as each other. He’s wiped my real estate right out and I’ve been left with a big debt where I’m struggling to make ends meet with work real quiet too. I’m defaulting with things here and there and I’m just trying to keep my head above water. I’m now living day to day with no money and every time I do get money it goes straight out to debtors.
“He’s very smart the way that he’s done it — it’s dead set fraud,” O’Brien claimed to Crikey.
“There’s no doubt he was a smooth talker and I’ve got to give him credit — he’s a genuine con man. It’s only looking back now I can see how everything he told me was all bullsh-t. I only met him once and the rest of our conversations were on the phone chasing him for money.
“But what disappoints me more than anything is where was my protection from this sort of thing? A big government body like ASIC should have stopped him back in 2006 when it investigated him when he was trading insolvent. If they had enforced what they’re there to do then he wouldn’t have got people like me because he wouldn’t have been able to be a director of a company or able to borrow any more money. But I think a lot of people from his church told them he had done nothing wrong.
“I don’t give a sh-t about the church, but I’ve lost everything I’ve ever worked for and now I’ve got a huge debt, because they didn’t stop him.”
O’Brien and his victim group employed a private detective in 2008 to follow Duker and his wife for more than a week in Melbourne, where he is believed to continue to practice as a solicitor.
“We wanted to find out what he was up to and discovered he was paying $1700 a week for a decoy house, which they don’t live in. He pays rent but doesn’t live there so people don’t know where he does live. I tell you he’s a smart man — no one can normally find him. His kids go to a private school and his wife was driving a nice BMW,” an unimpressed O’Brien alleged.
Perhaps some alert Crikey reader can fill us in if they have current knowledge as to the whereabouts and employment of Glenn Duker? Email [email protected]