Allansford arson accused now faces fraud charge

A FORMER Allansford property owner accused of torching his $1 million homestead for the insurance money has now been charged with trying to defraud the National Australia Bank of more than $1 million.

Robert Conn, 67, previously of Grauers Road, was to apply for bail next Monday after being remanded in custody on a large numbers of charges, including arson, on October 9 last year. 

But, Mr Conn withdrew his bail application after being charged on Thursday with conspiracy to defraud the National Australia Bank of more than $1 million between 2009 and last year.

Investigating officer Senior Constable Robert Baker, of the Knox police crime investigation unit, said Mr Conn was one of eight co-accused allegedly involved in the case.

He described Mr Conn as allegedly being a cog in a much larger machine with co-accused Grant Elliott, of Ararat, the alleged main player in the alleged offence. Mr Elliott was also charged on Thursday through a video link with court from Ararat.

All the co-accused have had their cases adjourned to a committal mention on March 25.

Detective Senior Constable Baker started working on the case in 2010. Mr Conn appeared in Warrnambool Magistrates Court this week via a video link as police applied for and were granted an extension of time for a hand-up brief of evidence to be prepared. 

Magistrate Jonathan Klestadt extended the time for a brief to be prepared until April 17, with a new committal mention date of June 4. He remanded Mr Conn in custody and noted Mr Conn had not applied for bail. 

Solicitor Amanda Chambers said she had been kept up-to-date in relation to the police investigation and this week’s police application came as no surprise.

Mr Conn was refused bail in October last year after a court heard he was the subject of several police investigations, including an alleged bid to kill his wealthy mother-in-law. 

He is a former police officer who was pensioned out of the force many years ago.

The court previously heard that a large fire destroyed a $1 million homestead at Grauers Road, Allansford, on May 26 last year. 

Police allege that Mr Conn paid someone to destroy his home in an effort to claim $1 million from two insurance companies. 

Police allege they have about 2100 telephone intercepts and some of that evidence links Mr Conn with the man they allege started the fire.

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