Golden Punters – Part 3

Francesco Barbaro, farmer, of Griffith, also a brother-in-law of Sergi, claimed $22000 in betting wins to explain his income.

Yet when asked what racecourse he had attended, he could not remember, nor could he remember whether it was on a Saturday or a Wednesday.

In his case, Fisher QC, after questioning the source for any betting stake money, suggested that it could be an example of ‘dealing in the selling of tickets’ at racecourses.

Commented Mr Justice Woodward: ‘so that if somebody followed the punter around and saw that he put a large bet on a horse, you would take note of that and then, if the horse won, you would buy his ticket’.

When Vincent Peter Ferraro, of Smithfield, an outer western suburb of Sydney, entered the witness box and claimed that he had won $70000 at the races, he was immediately challenged by Fisher QC.

‘All right’, asked Fisher QC, ‘you won it at the races, did you? Just take a deep breath and tell us all about it’.

Ferraro told of going to Randwick racecourse and backing a daily double, which had won him $36000 on another daily double at Rosehill the following Wednesday.

Explaining how he had had such success in winning so much money in an isolated two-meeting plunge, Ferraro said he had gone to Randwick and ‘just ran into a complete stranger and we just got talking’ and the stranger had given him the tip.

Ferraro claimed that he had collected his winnings in bundles of $50 notes, which he had then deposited in his bank.

The commission identified the banking of that amount of money, but bank sheets showed that he had deposited only one $50 note.

The remainder had included $38200 in $20 notes, $31 670 in $10 notes and $90 in $5 notes.

Ferraro protested: ‘That wasn’t my money . . . It can’t be my money’.

Bank records established that it was.

It meant, emphasised Fisher QC, that on each occasion it had been ‘totally and completely impossible’ for Ferraro to have won what he said he had.

Fisher added that Ferraro had been ‘caught out, caught out fair and square — and, what is more, twice’.

Under cross-examination Ferraro admitted: ‘On paper, as it appears, it is physically impossible for me to say that I did not win that much money’.

Nunzio Greco, builder, of Griffith, called upon to explain a payment of over $20000, attributed it to a lucky betting streak. ‘Call it beginner’s luck’, he said, ‘because I haven’t had any luck since. I backed Piemelon Bay when it won three times in a row at Rosehill’.

Fisher QC attacked his claim as a ‘tissue of lies . . . absolute nonsense’, adding: ‘someone has given him $20 000 to $23 000 on some account, and we do not know who and he plainly is not going to tell us’.

Russell George Spencer, a convicted drug offender, maintained that some of his unexplained income had come from gambling, including wins of up to $2000 at the late Joe Taylor’s gambling club in Kellet Street, Kings Cross.

Spencer claimed he had won $15000 from betting on horse races, and denied suggestions that he had given his wife the impression that he had actually lost overall. However, under questioning, he could not name one horse he had followed.

A police officer, Sergeant John Kenneth Ellis, formerly of Griffith, subsequently gaoled for conspiring with marihuana growers, also pointed to betting wins to justify an income of $55000 above his police salary and other known sources over the past five years.

Although witnesses gave evidence supporting Ellis’ story that he was a regular punter, Fisher QC described his claim as ‘just another account similar to all the other stories that Your Honor has heard’.

Based on a telephone TAB betting account maintained by Ellis, in a twelve-month period to August 1978, he had wagered $7151, and won $7477 — giving a net return of $326. That had worked out at a profit ratio of 4.3 per cent.

For Ellis to have made $55 000 in five years, said Fisher QC, if the same percentage had applied to all his betting transactions, he would have had a turnover of $1.25 million.

Stanley John Smith, described before the commission as a ‘notorious criminal’, claimed gambling wins as the source of $56000 in otherwise unaccounted-for income.

On one successful betting plunge, Smith said it had resulted from a tip given by George Freeman about a daily double involving the horse, Il Capo.

Smith’s barrister, Mr Cochrane, contended that Smith was ‘putting himself up not as a normal punter but, rather, as someone who has taken notice of tips from a man who knows, Mr Freeman, and in a sense Mr Freeman is well regarded’.

He added: ‘. . . he is well regarded in the racing community and he knows what horses are going to come home’.

Mr Justice Woodward: ‘That would be on the basis it is not a matter of luck, it is a matter of organisation?’

Cochrane: ‘Perhaps. I would not put it that strongly, but perhaps. If one looks at it in that way, the possibility, then one, would consider it is not unreasonable to have these types of wins’.

During the Street Royal Commission in NSW in 1983, a witness told of Freeman giving regular tips to former NSW Chief Stipendiary Magistrate, Murray Farquhar, which were 98 to 99 per cent accurate.

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