Black market runner snared at border over 17-year-old scheme
A RUNNER in a "black market" cheque scheme that operated across borders more than 16 years ago was only caught when he tried to enter Queensland during the coronavirus border closure.
Michael Ashley Cousins fled Queensland for Victoria in 2004 after he was charged over his involvement in a cross-state fraud scam that involved giving fraudulent documents to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) at Southport and fake identification to banks.
Cousins, now 46, pleaded guilty in the Southport District Court on Thursday to 20 counts of uttering a forged document and 10 counts of personation.
Cousins told police that being a "runner" for the "black market" cheques was "a pretty easy job and it's pretty good money for what you have to do".
Judge Rowan Jackson sentenced him to 18 months jail, to be released on parole after serving six months.
"What is quite clear is that the offences were sophisticated and carefully planned and they were quite serious examples of this type of offending and they took place over a significant period," he said.
Cousins had already served three months in pre-sentence custody.
He was taken into custody while trying to cross the border in early August this year when police realised a warrant was out for his arrest.
Prosecutor Rana Aldas said ASIC contacted police in January 2003 after realising two men had submitted forged documents numerous times to its Southport office.
In April 2003 police were called because Cousins was there with forged documents.
Police arrested Cousins.
He told police he had been paid in cash to fly from Sydney to the Gold Coast and lodge forms with ASIC to change company directors to a fake name.
Cousins would then use that name and some fake documents to obtain 100 points in identification.
Ms Aldas said he would then take the documents to the bank and open a company bank account, which included a cheque book.
Ms Aldas said Cousins used some of the cheques for personal expenses but would take the cheque book back to his employers in Sydney.
She said Cousins had lodged fake documents on eight occasions and made somewhere between $4000 and $8000.
"He was not the mastermind behind the criminal plan - the more motivating force was the people he was working for in Sydney," Ms Aldas said.
"He was an employee or runner for the masterminds.
"His actions allowed this black market and allowed the scheme to be quite successful until he was detected."
Cousins was to be sentenced in April 2004 but had fled to Victoria.
Defence lawyer William Sun said since the offending, Cousins was "a different man".
He said at the time Cousins had been struggling with a cocaine addiction.
Cousins has criminal history in Tasmania, New South Wales and Victoria.
Mr Sun said the break in offending between 2008 and 2017 showed it was possible for Cousins to lead a lawful life.
Cousins lost his job at a Victorian hotel due to the pandemic.
Originally published as Black market runner snared at border over 2003 scheme