Monday, 14 July 2014

All good scams must end

A few years ago, I casually complained to my local YMCA about their 'Indigenous' display.  I wanted to let them know that what they had done had the potential to offend people, despite how well-meaning they were obviously trying to be.  I expected an answer in the realm of 'we read a history book and that was our inspiration', but was taken aback when instead I was informed that this was the work of a local traditional owner, who oversaw the entire project.

This was the first whiff I had of Scammers posing as Aborigines right under my own nose.  So I started to hunt around, and in my searches, became all too familiar with the name Sonia Murray, aka Scams a'Plenty.


If you are to believe any of what she says as the truth, she was born to an Aboriginal mother and Scottish father.  Not just any Aboriginal mother either, but, one descended from the original owners of some of the best land in Melbourne - Port Phillip to the Dandenongs and then some, according to her sources.  Unfortunately, in the 1830's, her ancestors were captured and taken to the Bass Strait, unable to return to their country until a plucky descendant named Sonia, who would make the perilous journey some 170+ years later to stake a claim to what was once rightfully theirs.

In addition to her exceptional navigational skills, Sonia it appears, has 'the gift' - or is clairaudient, in her words.  A healer with the ability to see, hear and speak to spirits, available at an hourly charge ($100 for a phone consult, or if you're a bit cash strapped, $50 for an email) to cleanse you spiritually, like only a native can.  If you're feeling lost on your life path, she can contact your spirit guide and ask them for directions as to how you get back on track.

For a brief period, Sonia also set up shop as a snake oil salesman, sorry, Mutton Bird Oil salesman, via her wildly unsuccessful venture 'Nangana Healing Centre', where she offered goods that she declared to be Traditional Bush Medicine as well as the obligatory selection of overpriced 'arts and crafts' for suckers to purchase.  Almost all trace of Nanganas existence is gone from the internet now, but rather than assume that is because she scammed someone and had to shut up shop before people sued, as I'm sure some of you more cynical people will already be thinking, take comfort in the fact that it was probably because of all the other side ventures she had going on that were now demanding more of her time. 

One such venture was Hawkseye Heritage.  Far from being a greedy Aborigine, Sonia wanted to ensure that the environment was taken care of properly, and being who she was, self-appointed spokesperson for the Bunurong, decided to start a business that could fill a growing, and luckily for her - lucrative, demand for managing 'Cultural Heritage'.  The current boom industry.  With her partner Steve by her side, a didgeridoo playing traditional owner himself who could luckily double as a 'Cultural Heritage Officer' for her fledgling business as well, they set about having their demands met, and demand they did over the years. 

Far away from prying eyes, and subject only to the regulations of a body that is loathe to jump in quickly when an Aboriginal Corporation continually fails to meet compliance, they had a pretty sweet set up.  What might appear to most everyone else to be a 'conflict of interest', is almost par for the course in Aboriginal Organisations.  The transparency that should exist simply does not, and years can go by with annual reports and financial statements failing to be lodged repeatedly before they call in someone to take a look.  By then, it's usually a mess, as it was when the Special Administrator was appointed to Bunurong earlier this year.

How the 'Cultural Heritage' scam works is quite simple.  A local developer wants to get a project off the ground, our laws dictate that he must seek out the local Aboriginal group and get advice on the appropriate people to conduct a 'Cultural Heritage' survey/assessment/report/you-name-it.  How it works in this case goes a little like this - Bunurong, the local Aboriginal group, is approached by the prospective developer. Sonia, as Director of Bunurong advises the prospective developer of what work will need to be done, and, hands off the work contract to Hawkseye, the company she owns.  Nice little earner if you can get it.  In fact, Hawkseye invoiced Bunurong Land Council for a total of $4,955.00 in 'Administration Costs' in a less than 6 week period earlier this year.  That is not including the actual payments to the cultural heritage officers who undertake the work, of course.

With all the cash cows requiring constant milking, and a seat up front on the Gravy Train guaranteed to her, you might be surprised to learn that Scams a'Plenty still felt it necessary to pull off the sickest trick in the Fraudsters book - begging for donations for her sick child.  It seems that in addition to her many business ventures, she has also managed to register a charity.  A charity that proclaims itself to not only assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, but conduct research into childhood cancers.  There is a donations page on the charity website, and searches at www.acnc.gov.au (the Government charity register) confirms it does indeed have registered charity status. Should you decide to donate, it's all tax deductible. Which is probably a good thing- they seem to need lots of donation.  Currently, they need help (in the form of money, of course) to take her desperately ill child to a foreign country for treatment.  Treatment she herself is unable to afford, due to her loss of employment, which was of course, another cruel blow for the suffering family.  Unfortunately her timing was off to anyone who noticed (so far, I'm alone in that camp), for you see at the same time she was crying poor and unemployed, her company, Hawkseye, was receiving the above mentioned almost $5k in 'administration charges'.  She also neglected to mention during her shameless begging that she was planning a new business venture - in the form of a cafe/restaurant, and would later negotiate for leased premises in which to operate that venture from. 

I thought long and hard about providing the links to what I firmly believe is a scam charity, but one thing stops me.  The freely available information contained at length on the sites about the child in question.  The child may or may not have the disease this mother claims cash donations are needed to help fight.  Ultimately, that is irrelevant as I refuse to publish information that may identify a child.  The mother is scamming people, not the child, and I will ask that anyone who chooses to look into this further and finds out for themselves, that they not publish the information freely. 

But take heart.  She won't be getting away with her crimes.  As luck would have it, I'm not the only one who has noticed something dodgy about Sonia Murray.  Whether it was her aversion to paying taxes, or just that her number finally came up, a story in The Age yesterday is the turning of the tide for this particular fraudster.  A possible missing million dollars does not go away quickly or quietly, and now that it is out there in public, questions - uncomfortable questions - need to be asked.

26 comments:

  1. Thank you for again keeping a check on these fraudsters and scammers. Where there's money ......

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  2. Vic police should be employing you!

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    1. Hey 'Katrina', how come your google profile says you are a male? :) Maybe you set it up too quickly?

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    2. Nah lol....I have a little one who has become so very clever at changing my settings.

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  4. This type of thing must be extremely frustrating to people who genuinely want to improve the lot of indigenous Australians. I am not surprised to find Sonia arrived in Melbourne from Tasmania the land of the 'Lia Pootah', or Little River people.

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    1. Katrina Thomas is non- Aboriginal and the partner of WA Yamatji man, Steve Compton - the self appointed spokesperson for the Victorian Bunurong. Steve Compton is also the ex-partner of Sonia Murray. Both Sonia and Steve were featured in the Age article accused of FRAUD!!!
      http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/key-indigenous-group-members-facing-fraud-theft-and-tax-evasion-allegations-20140713-zt61x.html

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    2. The profile pic to the Name and Shame blog is of Steve Compton (red headband, long hair and beard) these people are non-Victorian, they are all painted up in 'black face' to look more 'authentic' this photo is quite large and is part of a display at the Nobbies at Philip Island, depicting 'Bunurong men' Steam Train mentioned a display by Sonia Murray, interestingly this display with her story, is also her handy work.... Steam Train, congratulations on your thorough and honest account of the facts, just letting you know, your not the only one who has been watching this shameful Sonia and Steve show!!!

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  5. Your honesty in calling out these people is wondrous to behold as there is little chance that a Labor or Liberal government will attack this problem (for fear of being called racists) Actually I am 50% Scottish and a survivor of the Glencoe Massacre of 1692. Unfortunately, my ancestors did not have the sense to claim victimhood for generations so I have had to get an education and work at a real job to make a living.

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  6. Oh Katrina, what a long winded message of complete nothingness :( I very much doubt the Aboriginal community needs you to be their 'savior' BUT I can completely understand how you would think this is your role, particularly as you think it's ok to comfortably make a living out of culturally appropriating a culture that is not yours. Honestly Katrina, throwing around terminologies such 'shame' and 'representing Elders' makes you sound important and a little 'culturally aware' to those not in the know BUT here's a reality check for ya!
    Your life Katrina Thomas, is dependent on the financial gain of exploiting Aboriginal people. Perhaps the Black Steam Train needs to do a follow up story on you and your accused fraudalent partner, Steve Compton - an apt title might be 'The Aboriginal Gravy Train'. I'll start it off: Katrina Thomas, non-Aborignal owner of consultancy company 'Wandri Archaeology' a self appointed expert on Aboriginal cultural heritage. Katrina learnt the tricks of her trade by being a staff member of Aboriginal Affairs, working in, CULTURAL HERITAGE. Whilst there, supposedly representing the interest of the Victorian Aboriginal community, she got pretty friendly with one of the now accused fraudalent communities she was supposed to represent, the 'Bunurong'. It must of been a very cosy relationship because she ran off and had a child with the Bunurong's self appointed spokesperson and puppet master, the accused fraud, Steve Compton.
    Although, I'm sure not all were happy campers, for Steve at the time was the partner of the Manager for the 'Bunurong' and co-accused fraudster, Sonia Murray.

    Hmmm, the plot thinkens, although, everything must be ok in the Thomas, Compton and Murray camp now because 'Wandri Archaeology' continues to represent all of Sonia Murray's 'Accused Fraudalent Bunurong interests' - BUTwhy wouldn't they be on the same 'Aboriginal gravy train' together, they have almost, almost got away with millions of dollars in 'accused fraudalent' business transactions.

    My humble advice Katrina, SAVE yourself because there's still ALOT more of this sordid story to come





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    1. Name and Shame, I bow down to your efforts.

      I kinda feel special that the 'other woman' in the sordid saga has come to my blog. Though by now, thanks to your efforts, she's probably regretting that decision..

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  7. PS and another thing, I'm not sure what is one sided in the AGE newspaper about discovering MAJOR fraud - although they could've spread the 'fraudalent' goings on between Sonia and Steve a bit more equally. Sonia copping the majority was, I agree, a little 'one sided'- but oh well, the facts are the facts and it now in the hands of the Police.......their reality is, their fraudalent activity has been operational since Western Australian, Yamajti man Steve Compton created them, you only have to look at their membership, current and otherwise to see that - puppet master extraordinaire!!

    Bet the Clairaudient, Sonia Murray with her 'gift' didn't see that coming - perhaps she needs to consult herself on her own 'spirit guide' and ask to be given the right track, although I can only guess, they're over her too!!

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  9. Hey there Black Steam Train - got an update for you....Sonia Murray and her Tasmanian Aboriginal 'Elders' have been named: Mervyn Brown, Leonie Dickson and Verna Nichols......... all we need now is for them to name their Uncle Tom, whoops I mean Steve Compton... oh how very exciting, look out for the Age article tomorrow and if Katrina Thomas is still voyering around here.....please love, spread the good news :)

    http://www.oric.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/09_2014/ORICMR1415-11_Registrar-takes-action-against-former-directors-of-Victorian-native-title-body_2.pdf

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  10. I haven't seen any articles in the age this week,

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  11. Took awhile but was absolutely worth the wait.........

    http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/watchdog-launches-case-against-victorian-aboriginal-council-former-directors-20141014-115xa8.html

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  12. Sonia Murray was run outta tassie from the mob! Everyone in tas have been sayin she's white for years! Ask Mick Mansell and the Orgs here in tassie! Shes not black she is a fraud! The new lot runnin the show at the Bunurong Land Council ARE Bunurong though and I just become a member! Steve Compton even says he's Bunurong on the ground! They all frauds. That's why the old fullas are reeking havic on their lives! U muck about the old fullas they will punish u! She ain't got no idea about spirituality otherwise she wouldn't go there! Run her out u fullas like us mob did and let the true Bunurong mob represent us! Murray and Compton wanna stop rakin in the cash and be true to the old fullas!

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  15. Here's an awesome update for you Black Steam Train......Sonia Murray and her Cronies have a four day appointment in the Federal Court from Tuesday 10 March! Sonia Marie Murray and her little Tassie Devils, whoops I mean "Elders" are so arrogant that they haven't even lodged a defence - probably going to cry around with 'poor fulla me' - My only hope other than them going down, down, down is that they take that wannabe WA Yamatji wanker Steve Compton down with them.........oh happy days!!

    Please note that in relation to the above matter, court records indicate that Sonia Murray has terminated her lawyer as of 16 February 2015. We also not that Murray and others had been given to the 5th of February to file their defence – to date no defence has been filed and the matter is to proceed to trial on 10th March – trial set down for 4 days.

    For further information on this matter, please refer to the federal court link below:

    https://www.comcourts.gov.au/file/Federal/P/VID563/2014/actions

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  16. The court case was adjourned and happened on Monday 23 March only for one because they finally did something right and pleaded guilty...,the judge has reserved her judgement and will handed it over the next coming weeks - hopefully the fraud squad will be after them next, even better if they point the finger at the puppet master Steve Compton - surely he can't be left out of this, surely'

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  18. According to the Federal Court list, the decision was handed down yesterday.

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  19. Front page of the Age yesterday.

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  20. Steve Compton still works in Victoria through Wandri Archaeology. Whatever welcome he had is long gone. He is taking employment from the people who deserve it, from people who haven't needed to scam their own family to get ahead.The few friends he has left are loosing patience. He has nothing but disrespect, he's a vulture.

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