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Allegedly committed further offences while on remand

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Australian police have charged the alleged ringleader of a massive advance fee fraud network with offences which they claim were committed since he was held on remand in October last year.

Nick Marinellis, 39, faced 17 charges including obtaining money by deception and conspiracy to cheat and defraud. Investigators allege he conned victims out of AUS$5 million in a series of 419 scams.

AAP reports that Marinellis was today charged with seven further offences - committed whilst incarcerated - including using false tax returns to obtain a AUS$720,000 loan and conspiring with his wife and mistress to pervert the cause of justice.

Marinellis was originally held for sending spam emails which conned people into believing that they could claim millions of dollars from overseas lotteries, or inheritance, or through a business opportunity. But before they could collect the money, the victims were required to pay an advance fee to process the payment.

Working with "unknown African males", Marinellis allegedly used the ruse to fleece victims in Australia and elsewhere. The biggest victim was an unnamed Saudi sheik who was conned out of AUS$571,302.

Marinellis allegedly bragged: "I have 220 African brothers worldwide, I am the Australian headquarters for those scams."

Police reckon Marinellis has been operating since 1998, when he was recorded trying to con an undercover reporter. Despite this it was only after a tip-off by the Hungarian Consulate in February 2003 that police launched a full-scale investigation into Marinellis which resulted in his arrest and subsequent imprisonment.

Prior to his arrest Marinellis was reportedly living off a disability pension. He has been diagnosed as schizophrenic, according to reports.

Marinellis will remain in custody pending his next appearance in court, scheduled for 27 April. ®

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