How Wests Tigers fan exposed Tim Simona's children's charity fraud
OPINION: There are few acts more disgusting than a well-paid sportsman ripping off a charity that helps children with cancer.
But the courts say New Zealand-born former NRL player Tim Simona's "cruel hoax" is only worth an 18-month good-behaviour bond.
Try telling that to a family or a child battling the illness. The god-fearing Simona also forced his ex-partner Jaya Taki to have an abortion. And he cheated his former Wests Tigers team-mates by betting on rival players.
Now, we can expose the lengths to which Simona went to rip off the fans who worshipped him. And we can reveal the Wests Tigers supporter who bravely chased him down.
Carla Sindel is a mad Tigers fan and a woman you don't want to cross. She was not my source for breaking the charity scamming story, but I knew she was aware of Simona's actions. She refused to talk about the matter or the evidence she has until Simona's case was finalised.
I have her letter to the NRL integrity unit and her correspondence with the police. Her leg work and determination to expose Simona is admirable. Her father was a policeman for 40 years — he worked with Tigers great Paul Sironen — and she showed the signs of a good investigator.
Simona began selling jumpers under the guise of performing charity work in January of 2014. There are 25 examples of that in the evidence that has been provided to me. He would double sell the jumpers and communicate directly with fans, even hand-delivering jumpers and recording videos with fans he had deceived.
Here is an example of his communication with a fan.
Simona: "$550 ATM champ."
Tigers fan: "As much as I am I'm not $550 plus keen. I could make a donation to your charity but that kind of money I'd 100 per cent prefer to know I'm getting a signed jersey."
Simona: "I'm not like that brother. Ive (sic) done this many times. But thanks for your time."
Tigers fan: "It's definitely awesome and I'm not calling you out for anything dishonest. I'm all for charity work and my eldest son is a leukaemia survivor and it's help from charities that make their lives a little more happier to live."
Simona: "Thanks mate something I've decided to do cause (sic) my cousin had cancer at a young age. Anyway champ if you know anyone that may be interested let me know thanks."
That conversation is typical of others as he exploited fans to support his gambling habit.
The evidence shows Simona not only sold jumpers, he also sold boots and training gear.
Sindel explained her motivation for helping to expose Simona: "I felt so strongly about Simona ripping off charities for children's cancer because I was outraged and it was the ultimate betrayal to the loyal and generous Wests Tigers community who supported him on and off the field and under the guise of fundraising for children with cancer was the lowest of the low.
"Watching two of my loved ones battle this disease, knowing how tough that fight is and to then find out Simona was deceiving his fans & ripping them off for his own personal gain in the name of cancer, was so despicable and it made me furious.
"The fact that he used the goodwill and generosity of (Tigers) fans to his benefit and it was also the longevity of the deception made my blood boil that this had not been a lapse of judgment, but a premediated, calculated series of lies."
- Sydney Morning Herald