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Aussie 419 ringleader jailed for four years

Mastermind scammed AU$5m

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An Australian 419 fraudster who conned AU$5m from his victims was today jailed for four years on 10 counts of fraud and one of perverting the course of justice by the NSW District Court theage.com.au reports.

Judge Mahoney said that a substantial deterrent sentence was called for, and duly banged up 40-year-old Nick Marinellis for "five years and three months jail with a non-parole period of four years and four months" - minus the time he had already spent in jail since his incarceration in October 2003. The judge said: "None of the matters are trivial and the modus operandi was complicated and devious."

Police interest in Sydney resident Marinellis - the self-proclaimed head of Australian 419ers who later boasted that he had "220 African brothers worldwide" and that he was "the Australian headquarters for those scams" - began in February 2003 after a complaint regarding an email advance fee fraud scam involving one "Dr Nick Marinellis" who was demanding up-front cash as a downpayment on substantial riches.

According to various news reports at the time, Marinellis used a number of aliases, including Tim Webster and Alan Jones, to fleece a Japanese victim. He also took a Saudi sheik for AU$571,302 before the net closed. After his arrest, Marinellis' lawyer argued that he was a family man, living on a disablity pension who regularly attended church and cared for his sick and elderly parents, as well as suffering the inconvenience of schizophrenia for which "He is currently receiving medication for that and he needs to be in the community to continue that treatment", as his lawyer put it.

The magistrate was unsympathetic, and refused Marinellis bail and ordered him to surrender his passport. He had been in custody until today's hearing and will not be eligible for parole until 2008. ®

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