James Cooper: alleged bushfire, charity fraudster gets bail

James Cooper: alleged bushfire, charity fraudster gets bail

An alleged fraudster accused of ripping off bushfire victims and trying to steal almost $500,000 from charities has faced court.

A Western Sydney man accused of ripping off bushfire victims and charities has been granted bail after spending seven months remanded in custody.

James Casey Cooper has been hit with more than a dozen charges after he allegedly dishonestly obtained about $85,500 from the Red Cross, St Vincent de Paul, the Salvation Army and Service NSW grant program designed to help small businesses affected by bushfires.

The 37-year-old has entered no pleas to those charges and others which relate to allegedly unsuccessful attempts to dishonestly gain a further $464,000.

Police allege Mr Cooper, who has been remanded in custody since his arrest in November 2021, forged documents in order to obtain the funds and the alleged motive was revealed in the NSW Supreme Court on Tuesday.

During a bail hearing, defense barrister Neil Funnell said Mr Cooper’s desire to pay for his drug addiction was to blame.

“I anticipate it [the charges] will not be defended,” Mr Funnell said.

“There’s no questions that while ever addiction remains an issue, the risk of reoffending is high … if he’s not craving illicit substances, he’s not a risk to the community.

“He’s done everything that he could to address the underlying issue that creates the risk.”

Mr Funnel said when Mr Cooper was arrested and remanded in custody, he was serving out another sentence through a NSW Drug Court diversionary treatment program, which a judge terminated.

“That decision to terminate the program is now subject to judicial review,” Mr Funnell said.

The court was told Mr Cooper had not used ice since March 2021 and he would seek to have his most recent fraud charges dealt with in the Drug Court.

“He’s got the ability to live lawfully in the community … there are multiple gaps on his record,” Mr Funnell said.

Justice Richard Cavanagh SC said Mr Cooper allegedly obtained about $52,000 from charities and $33,000 from Service NSW.

“The applicant [Mr Cooper] has made fraudulent applications to various charities for assistance, all for the purpose of feeding a significant drug habit,” Justice Cavanagh said.

“The applicant has a significant criminal history … the nature of the offending is all of a similar type.”

Mr Cooper claimed he had no recollection of obtaining the money from the charities or Service NSW and Justice Cavanagh agreed that he “needed” to be on bail to take part in the Drug Court program.

“I’m satisfied that the risk of the applicant committing a serious offense can be sufficiently ameliorated by the imposition of strict bail conditions,” Justice Cavanagh said.

Mr Cooper must live with his mother, abide by a curfew and see a doctor within seven days to get drug treatment support, Judge Cavanagh said after granting bail.

The case returns to court on Friday.

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