Fraser Coast rugby league player Paul Shillingsworth.
Fraser Coast rugby league player Paul Shillingsworth. Alistair Brightman

COURT: Hervey Bay scammer rips off cancer patient

A CANCER patient seeking relief from the pain of his treatment was instead scammed out of thousands of dollars by a Fraser Coast football player, leaving him and and his family devastated, a court has heard.

The man who committed the fraud, Paul Shillingsworth, appeared before Hervey Bay Magistrates Court on Wednesday and pleaded not guilty to the offence.

Magistrate Stephen Guttridge heard testimony from several witnesses during a hearing yesterday, including the widow of Ken Plummer, who died just months after he was scammed out of $2700 by the Fraser Coast rugby league player.

Louise Plummer told the court her husband was seeking relief from his cancer treatment when he responded to an ad for a spa in the Trading Post in June 2016.

Her husband deposited the money into the bank account of one of Shillingsworth's friends and he was assured the spa would arrive at the weekend.

 But the spa never arrived at their Sydney home and the couple went to the police to tell them of the fraud.

Yesterday the friend who received the payment from the Plummers testified against Shillingsworth, telling the court that the 27-year-old had approached him in the weeks before the offence.

Shillingsworth told his friend that his bank account wasn't working and asked if deposits could be made into his account.

The friend agreed and on July 1, 2016, he withdrew a total of $2700 for Shillingsworth.

Later police traced the payment to the account and questioned the friend, who told them the money had been withdrawn and given to Shillingsworth.

Magistrate Guttridge found Shillingsworth guilty of fraud.

A short adjournment followed and Shillingsworth then pleaded guilty to three additional fraud charges, two involving the sale of a spa for $3500 and one involving the sale of a jet ski for $3700.

The court heard Shillingsworth had served time in prison for $42,000 worth of fraud offences last year and had only just been released.

In total, his fraud offences amounted to $55,896, the court heard.

Police prosecutor Senior Constable Donna Sperling said at first Shillingsworth had given his victims his bank account number to deposit funds into, but by using his friend he had "brought a third party into his offending".

Shillingsworth was given a head sentence of 12 months in prison and was ordered to serve two months.

A two-year operational period was ordered for the remainder of the sentence.

The court heard Shillingsworth had gained employment since serving his term of imprisonment and that he was working to overcome his addiction to poker machines, which had led to the offences.

Magistrate Guttridge said Shillingsworth's offences were "calculated and planned" and had a degree of sophistication.

Mrs Plummer said she was glad to hear justice had been served, but she was sad it came too late for her husband to see it.

Mr Plummer died in November, 2016.

Fortunately, thanks to generous donations from others, he did get a spa and was able to enjoy it before he passed, Mrs Plummer said.

"People were absolutely disgusted to hear what had happened," she said.

"I was enraged. Decent people like Ken work.

"People like Paul Shillingsworth scam people."

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