'Like a failed marriage': Pie men's battle in Ipswich court

IPSWICH pie man Stephen Donnelly, accused of a $30,000 business fraud, took to the witness stand on day two of his trial to defend the Crown charges against him.

Taken through his evidence by his barrister Russell Byrnes, before a jury in the District Court at Ipswich, Donnelly said he was the founder of an earlier franchise Big Dad's Pies.

This was set up as his father had heaps of recipes from operating a successful bakehouse.

Donnelly said that by 2010 it had 37 stores before selling the brand name and franchise to the Retail Food Group.

He maintained a manufacturing facility but went bankrupt in November 2013, saying that he was losing $18,000 a week.

Donnelly, 57, who says he is a business manager and now lives on the Gold Coast, faces three serious fraud related fraud offences in 2014 and 2015, including committed against businessman Anthony Dutton. The case involves a pie franchise venture The Pie Guru.

Donnelly said he met Mr Dutton at a Millionaires Mind seminar in Sydney in October 2011.

They spoke about Big Dad's Pies and then kept in touch.

"He asked if I was looking for a share-holder in a business called Food Chef, an online pie business," he said. "At the time it was a proposed business, selling pies to retail, wholesale market."

Donnelly said Mr Dutton agreed "absolutely" to put $100,000 for a 25% share in Food Chef.

Donnelly, said as he was a bankrupt with no money, his name was not to appear on documents, and a friend was to hold the shares for him.

Saying that he did all the work in setting it up, Donnelly said $12,000 was paid for a big letterbox drop to advertise it but it wasn't done -"the company did a runner".

Despite the business struggling, Donnelly said Mr Dutton agreed to pay $19,000 to increase his shareholding to 40% - and pay $14,000 into the Food Chef account and $5000 into his account (Don Family Trust).

Donnelly said he registered The Pie Guru Retail Pty Ltd because when he went to register Pie Guru it was already taken.

In earlier evidence given at the trial, Mr Dutton maintained Donnelly was not a partner, his role only being to check on staff.

"He was just to advise me. No he was not entitled to any royalties," Mr Dutton said. "He had no capital in it (the business)."

Stevan Davies ran a Pie Guru shop in Rockhampton and in his evidence had received dozens of invoices (for the snap frozen food product sent to his store) and been paying the money into the Don Family Trust account with the ANZ bank.

Taken through dozens of invoices by Crown prosecutor Cameron Wilkins, Mr Davies revealed that he'd paid thousands of dollars into the account.

Then taken through dozens of invoices sent by Food Chef (with the same dates) for stock supplied to him, Mr Davies said he'd paid those as well.

The jury trial before Judge Dennis Lynch QC continues today.

Stephen John Donnelly, 57, is charged with three fraud related offences that the Crown says occurred between May 31, 2014 and October 22, 2014 at Ipswich; and dishonestly gaining a pecuniary benefit for himself between December 2, 2014 and May 2, 2015 at Ipswich; and between  March 30, 2015 and May 12, 2015.

In his opening Mr Byrnes told the jury that at the heart of the case was a failed business relationship between the two men - "Like a failed marriage, bitterness, rancour".



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