Brothers pretended to be gay for scam

STEVE BUTCHER
Last updated 11:27 07/06/2013
Scam
Justin McManus
Jim and Bill Karras pretended to be a gay couple to access the first home owners grant.
Scam
Justin McManus
Bill Karras wearing a wig.
Scam
Justin McManus
Jim Karras wearing a wig.

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The bond had been strong, but Bill and Jim Karras' once brotherly love definitely went no deeper than that.

Despite the embrace and the blonde wigs, the Australian's claim they were unmarried "domestic partners" living as a couple was a lie.

It was a sham union of convenience to dupe Victoria's State Revenue Office of a $AU7000 first-home owner grant and also to avoid tax.

Prosecutor Yana Podolskaya said in 2012 that Bill Karras, posing as Dimitris Saravakos, was the focus of a SRO investigation into transactions over single properties in Melbourne.

Ms Podolskaya told Heidelberg Magistrates Court on Thursday an applicant was ineligible for a grant if they or their partner before July, 2000, held an interest in residential property in Victoria or interstate.

She said Bill Karras, who in November 2010 as Saravakios made false statements in his application, had owned three houses before 2000 and four others after that year.

He was paid the grant in 2011, then it was found in June, 2010, he had lodged with the SRO a transfer of land from his brother to "Saravakos" in which Jim Karras as transferor answered "yes" that they were in a relationship.

Ms Podolskaya noted the sale price for the transfer property was recorded as "natural love and affection".

She told magistrate Richard Pithouse that when "Saravakos" was asked by investigators in April last year for information into a tax duty exemption, he wrote that he and Jim Karras started a "relationship" in 2009 that ended in 2010.

He also emailed a utility bill and photographs of "Jim Karras hugging Dimitris Saravakos and also both of them wearing wigs".

Bill Karras admitted later he sent the photos and bill to "play along" with the claim they were domestic partners living together.

Jim Karras, 34, was recently fined $2000 without conviction for making a false statement, while his brother, 41, pleaded guilty to four charges, including tax evasion.

Bill Karras's lawyer George Defteros described the circumstances as a "comical and farcical" attempt at fraud that was "doomed from the outset''.

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"This attempt to pass himself off as someone in a relationship with his brother and to produce this type of material, one wonders what he was thinking at the time," Mr Defteros said.

The brothers had now "parted ways", he said, noting that Bill Karras had co-operated with authorities, repaid $26,000 in stamp duty and been diagnosed with depression and anxiety.

Ms Podolskaya told Mr Pithouse that Bill Karras, convicted twice previously of serious dishonesty offences and avoided serving a sentence, ''seems not to have learned his lesson''.

In sentencing, Mr Pithouse told Karras it was "shameful" he had involved his brother, who has multiple sclerosis and was a victim, and who had been ostracised by his family as a direct result of his brother's conduct.

"You are a dishonest person," he told Karras, "and you continue to be dishonest and you do not learn."

He was jailed for nine months and convicted and fined $5000. He was bailed pending an appeal.

- The Age

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