Lower than low: Pathetic fraudster who robbed vulnerable drought-stricken farmers of more than $40,000 through hay bale scam cries in court as he admits to racket
Victims of a ‘reprobate’ Sydney fraudster who preyed on drought-ravaged farmers say they are shocked someone could stoop so low.
Matthew Lewis Small cried on Friday as he was refused bail after pleading guilty to a hay bale scam that robbed farmers of more than $40,000.
The essence of Small’s swindle was advertising cheap hay to desperate farmers before disappearing with a hefty deposit.
Victim Nicky Lyle from Fox Hill Farm in the Southern Highlands paid Small a $5400 deposit for a hay delivery that never arrived.
‘I was surprised someone could stoop so low,’ she told AAP.
‘With all the fires and the other trouble, it surprises me there is someone out there purposefully doing this.’
Ms Lyle got in touch with Small after he posted an ad on Facebook.
‘Hay prices are so high you start to look at other places,’ she said.
‘That was the target he was aiming for. We were thinking maybe he’s just hopeless. Turns out he was just a crook.’
Small scammed $43,500 after posting fake ads to Facebook buy-sell groups and Gumtree for heavily discounted lucerne hay bales.
He used a series of aliases, including Mattie Maatan and Matthew Cortez.
The 27-year-old stole the identity of a former acquaintance to rip off 14 victims across NSW and Queensland between August and December 2019.
‘We don’t know if we’ll get our money back at this stage,’ Ms Lyle said.
‘I don’t know where the money is.’
Another victim, who did not want to be named, said Small was a ‘low-life scammer’.
Magistrate Theo Tsavdaridis on Friday told Small he was a ‘reprobate’ who was set to be jailed for his crimes.
Small will return to court for sentencing on prior offences on February 7 before being sentenced for the hay fraud on March 6.