THREATS: Bundaberg Police are investigating a phone call made to Ben Prichard. Photo: Mike Knott / NewsMail
THREATS: Bundaberg Police are investigating a phone call made to Ben Prichard. Photo: Mike Knott / NewsMail Mike Knott BUN090216PRICHARD2

'Where's your wife right now?': farmer tells of threats

"WHERE'S your wife right now?"

It's the sinister phone call no husband wants to get, but last month that is what Ben Prichard heard on the other end of the line.

The call began with a deep voice repeating: "You're a f---ing grub."

The Bundaberg farmer believes he has been targeted with an anonymous threat - which also mentioned his sister and told him to "watch your back, because I'm right behind you" - after he spoke out about Melbourne market agents owing him, and other local growers, hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"I was a bit worried because he was asking where my wife was, and I wondered if he was with my wife," Mr Prichard said.

"I kept asking him, 'Why?' but he wouldn't respond."

Now, on top of keeping his farm afloat after almost certainly losing $263,000 in fees for produce, Mr Prichard has been working to secure his family home.

Bundaberg Police confirmed they had received an official complaint and are investigating the matter.

Mr Prichard said he also received phone calls telling him he'd never receive the money owed.

Mr Prichard and his father Mike, who run Mr B Fresh, made a claim in the federal court for $263,486.17 that they say was owed to them by LIS Future Developments Pty Ltd, trading as E&R Produce.

They were due to go to court late last month, but LIS Future Developments went into voluntary administration - meaning they will almost certainly not get what they are owed for produce sent to Melbourne.

There is no suggestion that LIS is behind the threats. Mr Prichard said he did not recognise the voice and that the person sounded like they were "putting on a deep voice to scare me".

Mr Prichard said he had no hope of recovering the $263,000, and that he was still owed more than $260,000 by two other produce agents in Melbourne.

Wholesaler industry body Fresh State has hit back at reports of the threats in other media, with president Shane Schnitzler saying the comments "encourage rumours that are not only detrimental to wholesalers at the Melbourne Market but also tarnish the entire industry".

"Sadly, as well as making damaging claims, The Weekly Times have not disclosed the name of the grower or the name of the alleged wholesaler and therefore not provided any opportunity for rebuttal.

"The correct process for growers or any person that is a subject to unlawful behaviour is to go straight to law enforcement authorities, not the media."

Mr Prichard said in response, "If I mentioned the other agent's name, he could simply lower the amount he pays me as punishment."

The NewsMail tried to contact the directors of LIS Future Developments for comment yesterday but they could not be reached. A number has been left for them to contact the NewsMail if they wish.

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