ONCE BITTEN: Horse breeder Nicole Armstrong wants to create awareness about the dangers of purchasing hay from interstate sources after she was caught out by a scam. 

Picture: Laura Blackmore
ONCE BITTEN: Horse breeder Nicole Armstrong wants to create awareness about the dangers of purchasing hay from interstate sources after she was caught out by a scam. Picture: Laura Blackmore

Burnett breeder loses thousands in hay bale scam

AFTER a rough couple of years of managing through the drought, Nicole Armstrong had high hopes for 2020.

However, the Wondai horse breeder has been left extremely frustrated after being caught up in an interstate fraud case.

Mrs Armstrong said she initially looked outside the region for hay because she was struggling to source it locally.

In December 2019 she joined a Facebook group called Tamworth Hay and Grain Buy, Swap and Sell and responded to an advertisement, but she could never have envisioned what was about to transpire.

"With horses the hay has to be a specific type, you can't just feed them anything and we feed ours lucerne," Mrs Armstrong said.

"I messaged the man listed on the ad with my details and he gave me a price.

"We didn't question the price because it was similar to what we had been paying.

"Like most people, we did our research and they looked like a legitimate business," she said.

"We searched for them online and had copies of their ABN, invoice numbers and letterheads.

"So we paid a deposit of $4500 because people aren't inclined to send hay 1000km away without seeing any money."

However, a week before the arranged handover of hay things started to look suspicious.

"He started saying to us that he needed more money," Mrs Armstrong said.

"I was hesitant so I screenshotted all of the conversations.

"You are wanting to trust people, but it was also the first time we had dealt with anyone interstate.

"On the Friday before the exchange, he said he had some family issues and couldn't make it so he would send a driver.

"Against my better judgement I paid the rest of the funds, which was $9000 for 600 bales of hay.

"In the back of my mind I thought if this was a scam I would get police involved, and we told him that too."

Mrs Armstrong's worst fears became a reality on Saturday, January 11, when she spent four hours out the front of Rykes at Kingaroy, waiting for a truck that never showed up.

Sticking to her word, on Monday, January 13, Mrs Armstrong took all her evidence to the police station.

Since coming forward, the horse breeder has learned of 12 other people who had also allegedly been scammed by this man, including a horse produce store.

"He had been using alias names and changing them around," Mrs Armstrong said.

"The police had three search warrants out for his arrest for two counts of fraud and one count of domestic violence.

"He has now been arrested and is awaiting charges and will most likely face jail time.

"The police said to us to do your homework, but the thing is we did.

"I said to them worst thing someone can do is to take horse people for their money.

"We spend a lot of money and we don't like it taken from us," she said.

"People can be embarrassed by these types of things but we encourage people to come forward and make a complaint, because if these people have deceived people now, they have probably done it before."

South Burnett

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