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Accused racing fraud can’t afford lawyer

Racing identity Bill Vlahos, accused of defrauding punting club members out of millions, has represented himself in court because he’s run out of money to pay a lawyer.

Vlahos told the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court that after three years of legal representation funded by himself, family and friends, he now needed to apply for legal aid.

The Torquay resident faces 373 charges of obtaining financial advantage by deception in relation to cash he obtained between 2008 and 2013 while running a scam punting club, court documents allege.

Magistrate Charles Rozencwajg noted his lack of legal representation could effectively stall the case.

“It’s just not good enough. I am not going to keep this case on the backburner,” Mr Rozencwajg said on Thursday.

“This case has been going on for years.”

He questioned Vlahos about his financial situation.

“It wasn’t until recently that I became aware that my counsel would not come under legal aid,” Vlahos replied.

A legal aid lawyer, who was in the court room for an unrelated matter, stepped in to help Vlahos make an appointment.

The lawyer told the magistrate Vlahos had been confused about the application process, but Mr Rozencwajg rejected the excuse.

“I don’t know that Mr Vlahos is so confused,” Mr Rozencwajg said.

“He’s been running a major enterprise for years.

“Mr Vlahos’ intelligence is very sound.”

Court documents say Vlahos dishonestly obtained funds by falsely representing:

* That he intended to use the funds to place bets on thoroughbred races on behalf of punting club investors.

* That the details on bet sheets provided by Vlahos to punters represented the horses to be backed at a particular value.

* That the betting and financial results provided by Vlahos to club members were genuine.

He is also accused of attempting to destroy evidence by deleting emails he allegedly knew were likely to be used against him.

Vlahos was charged late last year after a long civil court process.

Mr Rozencwajg said it was unlikely Legal Aid would want to fund Vlahos’ case because of the amount of fraud alleged.

The case was adjourned to April 4.

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