Australian mining industry scam lands fake media tycoon in jail

Jailed: Peter Sorensen who fleeced companies by charging them for ads in fake publications.
Jailed: Peter Sorensen who fleeced companies by charging them for ads in fake publications.
An invoice issued by one of Sorensen's many fake mining publications.

An invoice issued by one of Sorensen's many fake mining publications.

A master conman who posed as a media tycoon and fleeced mining firms out of hundreds of thousands of dollars has been jailed.

Peter Noel Anthony Sorensen, 52, was sentenced to 15 months jail with a non-parole period of six months, over an elaborate billing scam that saw eight companies pay invoices, totalling $124,500, for adverts in magazines that never existed.

On Monday, his last ditch appeal over the severity of the sentence, handed down in February, was rejected in Parramatta District Court.

Now Sorensen is behind bars, The Sun-Herald can confirm that as many as 51 mining companies may have fallen for the scam and that the charges only dealt with a third of the money he made.

A NSW Fair Trading spokeswoman said some mining firms were so "embarrassed" by the ease in which their accounts departments had been exploited, they refused to assist in the resulting prosecution fearing it might "adversely affect" their "reputation in the market place."

On paper, Sorensen had it all. His publishing house, Commerce and Resource Productions, featured more than 20 mining-related magazines including the Australian Mining and Resource Journal and The National Mining Review. But in reality, his media headquarters was a modest fibro rental shack in a sleepy beachside suburb on the NSW South Coast. His magazines, meanwhile, were nothing but a fraudulent fishing expedition that involved him casting hundreds of fake invoices out to companies. They swallowed the bait.

In almost every example, the invoices listed the size of the bogus advert, the name of the magazine it appeared in and the total sum owed. The "preferred method of payment" was an electronic transfer straight into his own account. Sorensen even took on the persona of a heavy handed media baron – chasing up late payments with phone calls that threatened legal "recovery actions."

The scheme hit a snag in October 2013 when Fair Trading investigators unravelled the fraud. Sorensen was fined $40,000 and ordered to pay $96,000 in compensation after pleading guilty to 32 charges of "asserting right for payment for unsolicited services".

But in June 2014, The Sun-Herald revealed that not only had the conman repaid just $2200 of his fine – he had resurrected the lucrative ruse under a new business name – Mining & Resource Media.

After being charged a second time, Sorensen claimed he was simply the "provider of the bank account" and that after taking a 30 per cent cut of revenue, he would deliver the remaining proceeds to the alleged syndicate principles. However, he refused to identify others involved, claiming his personal safety would be jeopardised.

In dismissing Sorensen's application for the sentence to be served by Community Service Order, Judge Martin Sides pointed to it being his second offence, adding he had been making a living from the scams.

Fair Trading confirmed there has been a number of similar frauds targeting small businesses for adverts in fictitious publications and newsletters. But the spokeswoman added: "None of these scams are on the scale of Sorensen's."

Sorensen is eligible for release on December 31.

This story Australian mining industry scam lands fake media tycoon in jail first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.