Debt collector gets caught up in con man's web

TANGLED WEB: Fred Nassif (left) with fraudster Luke Bracken. Mr Nassif was engaged in late 2014 to recover $150,000 invested in one of Bracken's schemes by a Newcastle client.
TANGLED WEB: Fred Nassif (left) with fraudster Luke Bracken. Mr Nassif was engaged in late 2014 to recover $150,000 invested in one of Bracken's schemes by a Newcastle client.

LUKE Bracken allegedly conned a debt collector engaged to recover $150,000 from him, a relationship that culminated in the fraudster being bashed and his victim being locked up in a Dubai prison.

Bracken, who had close ties to the Sunshine Coast, is now himself in jail, in Pretoria, facing charges of attempting to defraud members of the South African business community.


Lieutenant Colonel Robert Netshiunda of the Directorate Priority Crime Investigations in Pretoria said Bracken remained in custody ahead of a bail hearing.

Maroochydore Police Detective Senior Sergeant Daren Edwards said police on the Sunshine Coast had been preparing to arrest Bracken when news came through he had been detained in South Africa.

Fred Nassif of Sydney was engaged in late 2014 to recover $150,000 invested in one of Bracken's schemes by a Newcastle client but instead became the front man for a group of his family, friends and associates who also invested.

"He sold me," Nassif, who is now working with private investigator Des Beaton, said.

"He told me what he did for a dollar. He flew to Sydney and met my family members. He said Bracken International Mining had export licences and showed photos and videos.

"Luke asked for money for his import/export licence renewal. We gave him $80,000 initially from four of us."

Nassif flew to South Africa last year and met Bracken who he said had promised him the gold would be there and he could see it.

But when he arrived, Nassif alleges, Bracken told him they were no longer selling to a refinery but to a single buyer.

"I was only there for three days and ended up staying seven weeks," Nassif said.

"The story changed. He said half the gold had been confiscated and was tied up with the embassy and it was all hush, hush.

"The price of gold was going up and Luke would say 'you are making money'.

"Then after seven weeks he said he had a new buyer who worked (for a security company) in Dubai. It involved 514kg of gold. Luke said 'we fly to Dubai and it's sold'."

Nassif said Bracken had bought the plane tickets and booked them into a five-star JBR Beach hotel in Dubai all on the investor's credit card.

He said then came "terrible news". The gold was in 10 boxes - not in Dubai - but in the South African embassy in Abu Dhabi.

"We were in for just over $500,000 and the contract had gone from $1 million to $2.5 million," Nassif said.

"It was all a con. I bought the lie about confiscated gold. I had a letter to allow me to go into the embassy to collect it. I went to pick it up but was told the guy who was supposed to release it was not there.

"Once he sucks you in you have to believe him. You are trapped once you are in."

Bracken flew back to South Africa to allegedly pay off another general with another $US60,000 from Nassif and his associates while Nassif drove a truck from Dubai to Abu Dhabi to collect the gold.

"When Luke eventually rang at 2.05pm the embassy in Abu Dhabi had closed,'' Nassif said. "He said he couldn't talk now but everything was okay.

"I was there with the truck and no gold. Bracken got on a plane that night and rocks up in Dubai the following morning.

"He walked in saying everything was sorted and the embassy didn't want me there.

"I flogged him. I bashed him. I ended up getting a warning from the hotel so we went to another one. I told him he was not leaving my side. The beatings lasted for hours. It wasn't pretty.

"I had finally realised I had been conned and scammed. I managed to secure $90,000 which was transferred to me. I had to tell my contacts at home. He was ringing frantically for money. He had a US guy on the phone who must have tracked the number because 38 police and security showed up.

"I went to prison for three months before I secured bail. Luke went to hospital."

Nassif was locked up in Dubai on October 5, 2015, and bailed in December.

The matter was heard this year. Nassif told the story of what had happened to him and received a six-month suspended sentence. He returned home six weeks ago.

Topics:  debt collector fraud jail luke bracken scam

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