Fake media baron fleeces mining sector out of a fortune - again

Repeat offender: Peter Sorensen in October, the month he was fined $40,000 for "asserting right for payment for unsolicited services". Photo: Supplied

Repeat offender: Peter Sorensen in October, the month he was fined $40,000 for "asserting right for payment for unsolicited services". Photo: Supplied

A PHONY media tycoon has relaunched a fictitious publishing empire and fleeced Australian mining companies out of hundreds of thousands of dollars, just months after he was convicted over the same scam.

In October last year, Peter Noel Anthony Sorensen was fined $40,000 and ordered to pay $96,600 in compensation after he pleaded guilty to 32 charges, of  ‘‘asserting right for payment for unsolicited services’’.

The ruse involved sitting in his modest fibro rental home on the NSW South Coast and setting up a bogus publishing firm called Commerce and Resource Productions, from which he distributed hundreds of fake invoices across the mining sector, for non-existent display advertisements inside 20 phantom titles including ‘‘The National Mining Review’’.

More than 100 companies had fallen for the scheme by the time NSW Fair Trading investigators intervened. However, the majority of those firms were so embarrassed and mindful of negative publicity, only five agreed to assist in the prosecution. They, alone, had collectively paid Sorensen almost $100,000.

But barely eight months after Sorensen’s fake magazine empire had seemingly crumbled, the conman has been caught operating the same criminal enterprise, under a different business name – Mining & Resource Media. After casting his net across another 100 mining firms, more than $300,000 of "advertising revenue" rolled in.

The Sun-Herald can reveal that entire sum has already vanished with Sorensen refusing to reveal its whereabouts: "He was constantly monitoring his bank account and with a massive ATM limit in place, he was removing thousands of dollars daily, as soon as it appeared," said a source close to the investigation. 

On Friday, NSW Fair Trading was forced to defend last year's prosecution, claiming the fine was ‘‘appropriate given the circumstances’’ and the first time Sorensen had been before the court for "such offences". 

But a spokeswoman warned this time he might not be so lucky, confirming a second prosecution could see him face a "custodial sentence" of up to two years' jail. 

Brendan Pearson, chief executive of the Minerals Council of Australia, said he hoped that occurred: ‘‘This publisher is a repeat offender who was clearly not troubled by the fine he received last time he was caught and punished.

‘‘We would encourage all companies affected by this scam to assist the NSW authorities so that he faces the full force of the law.’’

In almost every case, Sorensen's invoices appear the same, detailing the size of the alleged advert, the name of the publication in which it allegedly appeared and the total sum ‘‘owed’’. The bill also features his ‘‘preferred method of payment’’ – an electronic transfer straight into his own account.

He also goes the extra yard to avoid potential suspicion by including the name of a genuine senior ‘‘authority’’ within the company, whom he has earlier researched through ASIC business searches.

Fair Trading confirmed Sorensen – or a connected criminal – even had the audacity to chase late payers: “Invoices request payment within 14 days, following which company account departments are contacted by a man who threatens the company with disclosure and recovery actions if payment is not made,’’ said the spokeswoman.

Last week, The Sun-Herald tried to approach, through Fair Trading, some of the affected mining firms for comment, but was told: "The companies that have been scammed are adverse to any publicity because it raises questions of corporate governance that may impact upon future business and share prices."

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