Fraudster who posed as motorist in distress, denied bail

A man from Attard has been remanded in custody after allegedly posing as a motorist in distress to defraud passers-by

A man from Attard has been remanded in custody after allegedly posing as a motorist in distress to defraud passers-by.

47-year-old Russel Bugeja from Attard was accused of defrauding a number of people between March and April this year. He was also accused of making fraudulent gain.

Bugeja was accused of recidivism.

Inspector Godwin Scerri arraigned the man before magistrate Audrey Demicoli this morning, explaining that Bugeja and an accomplice had allegedly stopped vehicles on a roundabout, pretending to have suffered damage to his vehicle and convincing the drivers to lend them money for fictitious repairs before disappearing.

An arrest warrant was issued after the accused was recognised from CCTV footage.

In court this morning, Bugeja told the court that he was a boat captain. He pleaded not guilty.

Bail was requested by Bugeja’s legal aid lawyer, Yanika Bugeja.

Scerri exhibited the man’s statement and his refusal to consult with a lawyer. He objected to bail as there were several civilian witnesses yet to testify, and investigations into alleged accomplices in the crime were still ongoing.

Bugeja reminded the court that the man was innocent until proven guilty. He had a problem and wanted to go to the Drug Dependency Unit of his own volition for a month of rehab. One of the reasons bail was requested was to help him help himself, she said. “He knows that if he breaches bail, there will be much worse consequences for him.” His last conviction was 12 years ago, she said.

But Inspector Scerri pointed to the man’s criminal record, which showed him to have serious drug problems. “The reason behind the crime was to fuel their drug addiction,” he said. The other accomplice, a woman, who will be arrested and charged soon, lives at the same address as the accused, although she is presently being treated at Mount Carmel Hospital, explained the inspector.

The Court presided by magistrate Audrey Demicoli, however, denied bail due to the possibility of the accused tampering with evidence but recommended to the prison authorities that the accused be given all the help he needed to combat his drug problem.