A magistrate has described a half-million dollar cache of allegedly stolen power tools discovered in Melbourne’s north west as “Aladdin’s cave”.
Sam Patto, 41, appeared in Broadmeadows Magistrates Court on Friday charged with 62 counts of handling stolen goods and one count of possessing property suspected to be the proceeds of crime.
The charges relate to 220 items found in Mr Patto’s possession and identified by their owners as being stolen from building sites and vehicles in Melbourne’s northern, western, eastern and south-eastern suburbs.
Police prosecutors allege Mr Patto bought the stolen tools – which include cordless drills, circular saws, angle grinders, nail guns, sanders, chain saws, laser levels, jigsaws, torches, radios, tool bags and a vacuum cleaner – between 2006 and 2013.
“The accused…was buying numerous power tools from what police say were known criminals and re-selling those power tools at various markets, and in particular the Laverton market,” police prosecutor sergeant Jim Currell said.
“Many of the owners of the stolen tools noted the tools located only represented a small portion of the tools that they had stolen.”
Sergeant Currell said Moreland crime investigation unit discovered about 1370 power tools and other items during searches of Mr Patto’s Broadmeadows house and a self storage unit in Tullamarine rented under his partner’s name.
Many of the tools had identifying marks and electrical test tags removed and some were labelled with prices or Mr Patto’s business name, Babylon Plastering.
Magistrate Patrick Southey described the haul as the “Aladdin’s cave of power tools.”
“I know the way tradies feel about their tools and there’s a lot of unhappy tradesmen out there,” he said.
The court heard that Mr Patto denied any knowledge of the tools being stolen.
Sergeant Currell said Mr Patto claimed he had purchased the tools at Laverton flea market and from a friend, but that it “wasn’t his job to ask where they came from”.
Sergeant Currell said Mr Patto also claimed he collected tools and did not have receipts because he paid with cash.
Police identified about $20,000 worth of goods found in searches of Mr Patto’s property as being stolen in a burglary of a plaster supplies company in Berwick in April last year.
The retail value of all the tools located in Mr Patto’s possession is estimated to be in excess of $500,000.
Sergeant Currell said the police investigation established most of the tools that could be identified by their owners mark or serial number had been reported stolen.
“It appears reasonable the remaining tools are the product of criminal activity,” he said.
“The accused appears to have been reckless in purchasing these tools and being wilfully blind at the very least.”
Mr Patto, who has no prior criminal convictions, is on bail and will reappear in court next month.