Claudine Bryce forced to repay $450,000 to mortgage scam victim Romeo Avallone

A Sydney woman has had to repay $450,000 to a Melbourne tradie after a long court battle, where she denies being part of a fraudulent scheme.

An accused fraud who boasted “legal and honest work pays well” when buying a Range Rover has been forced to repay $450,000 to a mortgage scam victim.

Claudine Bryce had received excavator driver’s Romeo Avallone’s life savings in her company PRI Holdings’ bank account.

Mr Avallone, 67, launched a civil case against Ms Bryce in the NSW Supreme Court to recover the money that he thought he was paying a mortgage broker to settle on his new home.

Ms Bryce, 50, who lives on Sydney’s northern beaches and receives a Centrelink carer’s benefit of $606 a week, confirmed she repaid the money after a lengthy court battle, but said she herself was a victim of a scam.

In documents she filed to the court in her defence, Ms Bryce stated that she believed the money was from a loan she had taken out with Mango Credit to renovate her own home.

She claimed that a person named Mark Soloman had instructed her to move the money from the PRI Holdings account to make it look like she had income so she could get a loan.

“At the time, I didn’t pay attention to the names of these people or who they were. Mark was doing everything he told me he would do. I trusted him and I believed what he was saying to me,” she said.

“I had been scammed by Mark and had been a victim of fraud.”

Mr Avallone, of Melbourne, paid $359,000 into an NAB bank account under the name PRI Holdings, which was controlled by Ms Bryce.

Romeo Avallone, 67, of Melbourne, went to the NSW Supreme Court to get back money that he lost in a mortgage scam.

Claudine Bryce of Sydney who was ordered to pay back more $360,000 to a Melbourne tradesman, who sent it to an account she controlled.

He also claimed $53,700 he lost on a deposit on a house that did not settle because of the scam and his legal fees.

Mr Avallone believed he was transferring the money to legitimate loan broker Mortgage King to settle a new home but it instead went to Ms Bryce’s account.

The case was settled once Ms Bryce paid back the money and she was never charged with a criminal offence.

Mr Avallone found Mortgage King online when he was refused a loan from Westpac because his work as an excavator driver dried up during Melbourne’s lockdown last year.

However, he had been directed to a duplicate website and had been contacted by a fraudster claiming to be Dale Mcvey, a loan manager, who told him to put the money into the PRI Holdings account.

The account was drained within weeks, with payments to a range of bank and bitcoin accounts, according to documents filed with the NSW Supreme Court.

Claudine Bryce of Sydney who was ordered to pay back more than $360,000 to a Melbourne tradesman, who sent it to an account she controlled.

Ms Bryce was accused in court documents of being an “active participant in a fraudulent scheme”, which she denies.

Ms Bryce had to get a new loan on her northern beaches property to repay Mr Avallone.

“They talked in court about extensions for my hair that cost $1000 like it was a crime,” Ms Bryce, who married 93-year-old Kevin Stacey after she met him when working as a carer at his home, said.

“I need to look presentable. I’m here with Kevin. He’s awake at night and he’s in nappies,” she said.

Claudine Bryce, of Sydney, with partner Kevin Stacey.

“The system was very bad for me. I have to pay $450,000. I have to pay because the way that the court treated me was very unfair.”

Ms Bryce posted a photograph of a new Range Rover on Facebook in June last year, a month before the payment from Mr Avallone, with the caption: “Legal and honest work pays well.”

She said this week: “Yes, that’s my car, we’ve got a good car for the home. That was paid for with money from our loan.”

Claudine Bryce posted a picture of a new Range Rover with the caption “Legal and Honest work pays well”.

Mr Avallone said he was devastated when he realised he was being duped, and felt devastated having to tell his wife Carmela they had lost their life’s savings.

“You lose a lot of sleep and you have to see your wife feeling it so much more, it was a hard time,” Mr Avallone said.

“My nerves are still shattered, every time I pick up the phone I get nervous as we know there are so many scams out there.”

“Things are getting better, I’m just grateful things worked out, especially for my wife, she has regained a bit of stability, it’s not just the material side of it.”

Mr Avallone questioned why Ms Bryce took so long to pay back the money.

“Once they realised the money was wrongly deposited all they had to do was forward our savings,” he said.

“We would have saved a good amount of stress and saved months and months of dealings, that matter should have been dealt with easily.”

“If they were reasonable and honest it would have been wrapped up a long time ago.”

Mr Avallone hired lawyers Duxton Hill, who put a freezing order on Ms. Bryce’s assets, including her home, which forced her hand to pay back the money.

Andrew Tragardh, barrister at Duxton Hill, said he was pleased Mr Avallone was able to get his money back.

“The speed we were able to identify who received the money and then get a Supreme Court order freezing their assets was something I don’t think they expected,” he said.

“They put their head in the sand for a while but we persevered, tightened the screws and then it was all over.”

Author: Stephen Drill – Herald Sun Senior Reporter. Read the original article here.