Con-man who defrauded thousands claimed to be heir to €57 billion fortune

Accused told one of the couples he defrauded he would help finance medical treatment in Germany for their sick child

File photo
File photo

A con-man who defrauded thousands of euros from two couples by claiming to be the heir to a €57 billion fortune was unable to afford a €500 bail deposit when he was arraigned this afternoon.

Noel Bonello from Żabbar was arraigned in court before magistrate Leonard Caruana on Wednesday, accused of fraud, making fraudulent gain and misappropriating a total of €4,500. He was also charged with misuse of electronic telecommunications equipment.

The court was told that Bonello had promised to help finance medical treatment in Germany for the child of one of the couples, and had offered to help the other couple with a business venture.

He managed to convince the couples that he had inherited a vast sum of money, €57 billion in one case, but needed a quick cash injection to access his funds.

One couple handed over €1,000 to the fraudster, the other €3,500.

The victims smelled a rat when he stopped answering their phone calls after the payment and had filed reports at the Birżebbuga police station.

From the dock, Bonello tearfully told the court that he was sick.

The 44-year-old defendant pleaded guilty and confirmed his plea after being given time to reconsider.

Defence lawyer Franco Debono, representing the accused together with lawyer Francesca Zarb, requested a pre-sentencing report, which was upheld. A request for bail, together with a bail supervision order in view of the man’s health troubles were also requested, pending the report’s completion.

Debono also suggested the court explore the possibility of mediation between the victims and the offender, in terms of the Restorative Justice Act.

The court upheld the request for bail, ordering the man to sign bail book three times a week and observe a curfew. Bail was secured by a €300 deposit and a €3,500 personal guarantee.

The deposit had to be reduced from the initial €500 after the defendant protested that he would not be able to afford the sum.