Cowboy builder jailed after defrauding victims to fuel pokie addiction

Paul Eyers
By Paul Eyers
2 Min Read

A cowboy builder who defrauded over half a million dollars and spent it on the pokies has been jailed.

Unlicensed Queensland builder Mark Anthony Webster was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison last week after being found guilty of defrauding small businesses out of $611,000.

The bankrupt fraudster was remanded in custody since his last court appearance after failing to appear at the previous four sentencing hearings.

He pleaded guilty to nine charges at Gold Coast’s Southport District Court last week, including fraud, failure to disclose bankruptcy and dealing with another entity’s identity.

In the five years leading up to 2021, Mr Webster defrauded 11 businesses across south-east Queensland after being contracted to complete shop fit-outs for restaurants and retail stores using a false business name, ABN and QBCC number.

There is also a warrant outstanding across the border in New South Wales when, following his Queensland arrest in 2021, he was convicted of scamming another business out of $44,600.

The court was told Mr Webster had pressured owners into making payments for the non-completed work, which he spent on an alcohol and gambling addiction, which included up to eight beers at the pub followed by two six-packs at home.

Victims won’t recover funds

Two of those victims, Chotikrit Luebandidkul and Patchamon Pisuttisopon, were forced to sell their Thai restaurant business after paying Mr Webster $65,013 for a shop fit-out that barely started before the disgraced builder began ignoring their calls.

The pair then took out a loan to pay another builder to complete the works; however, they could not afford repayments, eventually calling time on the venture.

They have now been told they will not recover any of the money they have lost during the ordeal after Judge Deborah Holiday found Mr Webster would not be able to pay restitution to eight of the businesses involved.

The couple were left “disappointed” by the sentence, with Webster eligible for parole in just two years.

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Paul Eyers has worked as a journalist for a range of media publishers including News Corp and Network Ten. He has also worked outside of Australia, including time spent with ABS-CBN in the Philippines. Stepping away from the media, Paul spent five years sharpening his tools in construction - building his skill set and expertise within the trade industry. His diverse experiences and unique journey have equipped him with an insider view of Australia’s construction game to dig deep into the big stories.