Gypsies have branched out from Britain and Europe to North America and Australia and according to police, these people are due back from overseas holidays any minute, ready to cause havoc with another spate of cheating elderly people out of their life savings.
They are the modern gypsies, described by the NSW government as organised criminals about to be targeted. The “gypsy season” is about to start in NSW, they operate from September to April every year. Thirty families with 1000 members have been under scrutiny by police as they carried out multi-million dollar scams picking on the most vulnerable – the elderly – promising to fix their roof, concrete their driveway or exterminate pests around their home. They insist on being paid in cash and drive their elderly victim to their bank to get it.
They pay cash for everything, including their custom-built, triple axle caravans and Range Rovers. Because their caravans are so big, they can only go to certain caravan parks and police know most of them. They use parks as a base in country or coastal towns and work a perimeter of about four weeks. They know how long they can stay before complaints start filtering in and in the dead of night, they suddenly vanish.
Investigators have records of 770 vehicles and 450 mobile phones they can link to the gypsies. They know who their family members are, where they live and how they operate. They use false names and addresses, swapping these names among themselves. And money is no object. English gypsies have incredible wealth and spend holidays in Palazzo Versace on the Gold Coast and travel to weddings and holidays around the world. They enjoy the Calgary Stampede in Canada and when our investigators told Canadian border police about three gypsies going from Sydney to the Stampede festival, they were stopped and had $55,000 in cash seized and denied entry.
Many are now Australian citizens and growing numbers are applying for permanent status. Officials say the gypsies they know about would earn at least $30 million a year from their Australian operations and this is a very conservative estimate.
Alex Johan, 69, a self-confessed thief and gypsy, appeared in a Sydney court last week to plead guilty to stealing from a number of old women after scamming his way into their homes with a female accomplice. Johan uses the name Sterio which is a member of a gypsy clan well known around Sydney. "They prey on the vulnerable and are cunning thieves," said Detective-Sergeant Trent Atkins, who arrested him. "They may be illiterate but they are rat cunning and it gets handed down from generation to generation."
The UK TV show My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding gives us an insight into Gypsy life. Although the women and young girls dress rather provocatively, because the women are very religious, their daughters are virgins when they get married, usually very young. The boys know very well that the only way to get into bed with their favorite girl, is to put a wedding ring on her finger.
But something here doesn't add up, surely scams involving elderly people alone didn't produce wealth such as this, there has to be something else we don't know about. Whatever it is, it's working very well.