The Federal Court of Australia today sentenced Mr Bon Levi, one of Australia's most notorious conmen, to 10 months' imprisonment, with 6 months suspended, after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission successfully prosecuted him for five counts of contempt of court.
In handing down the sentence, Justice McKerracher stated that, "Mr Levi has acted in absolute defiance of the court and its orders," and described the conduct as "repeated, serious and flagrant."
ACCC Chairman, Mr Graeme Samuel, welcomed the court's decision.
"The ACCC turns to the court for orders protecting consumers from fraudsters such as Mr Levi," Mr Samuel said.
"When the court's orders are deliberately flouted, it is consumers who are exposed. That is why the ACCC will continue to be vigilant in ensuring the court's authority is upheld, and that those acting in contempt of consumer protection court orders are brought to justice. In extreme cases such as Mr Levi's, that means a jail sentence."
The Federal Court suspended 6 months of Mr Levi's sentence for 5 years on the condition the Mr Levi not sell, advertise or accept any payment for any business opportunity whatsoever, without leave of the court. The court orders also prevent Mr Levi from knowingly participating with any other person in selling business opportunities.
Mr Levi has a long history of defrauding Australians by setting up bogus franchises and businesses that he sells on the promise of guaranteed future earnings.
After the ACCC took successful action against Mr Levi in 2005, Justice Kiefel made orders to protect members of the public dealing with Mr Levi.
Those orders require Mr Levi to provide written disclosure about his history, past aliases and previous breaches of the Trade Practices Act 1974 before accepting payment for any business opportunity or franchise.
"The ACCC acted to protect the public from this recalcitrant conman's repeated attempts to profit from unsuspecting members of the public, who would have been unlikely to do business with Mr Levi if they had known about his fraudulent history," Mr Samuel said.
After the orders were made, the ACCC monitored Mr Levi's activities and responded to numerous complaints about business opportunities and franchises Mr Levi was attempting to sell.
The contempt of court proceedings relate to businesses Mr Levi sold in Melbourne, Sydney and Perth in 2006 and 2007 in defiance of the Federal Court's orders.
The businesses involved included Little Joe Snax snack foods, LPG conversions and Bikini Girls Massage businesses. In return for $36,000 to $66,000, Mr Levi promised to set up the businesses and pay guaranteed weekly incomes. None of these businesses were ever established and, as a result, consumers lost all their money.
"This case reinforces the need for people to seek legal and financial advice before buying into a franchise or business opportunity," Mr Samuel said. "Consumers should not rush into buying a franchise or a business, and they should be wary of scams promising ways to make a lot of money quickly. Consumers should do their homework about the business itself, as well as the people promoting the business before handing over any money."
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