Geelong court: Rebel bike enforcer John Donnelly ran private racket, court told

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A GEELONG bikie gang enforcer has been accused of running a million-dollar criminal racket away from his club while also cheating on his pregnant wife.

John Donnelly was on bail and supposed to be home with his wife Megan and their two children on February 9, but police told the Geelong Magistrates’ Court they found him sleeping with another woman in a stolen caravan at a storage facility in Leopold.

The woman, 24-year-old Laura Fenton, is alleged to have helped Donnelly run an illegal operation where stolen vehicles were rebirthed, re-registered and sold online.

The court was told Donnelly and Fenton were in a sexual relationship, and he had a “number of other mistresses”, and used a variety of aliases to commit his alleged crimes.

Donnelly’s wife and parents were in court on Thursday, supporting his failed application for bail.

Detective Senior Constable Stephen Eppingstall told the court Donnelly was the “sergeant at arms of the Geelong chapter of the Rebels motorcycle club”, but police believed his offences were not part of the gang’s activities.

“This appears to be a private enterprise,” he said.

It was alleged Donnelly went to elaborate effort to avoid police attention, and hide stolen property and evidence.

Raiding the former concreter’s home earlier this month, detectives found a hidden button and pushed it, activating a hydraulic system that revealed a secret compartment — about the size of a phone box — under the floor.

The court was also told the man used a stolen vehicle, that had been fitted with a number plate-flipping device, that allowed him to change the apparent registration of the car at the push of a button.

Detectives from Victoria Police’s bikie taskforce Echo tracked Donnelly’s movements, online activities and telephone conversations for months leading up to his almost-accidental arrest alongside Fenton on February 9.

Sen-Constable Eppingstall said what started out as a drug investigation quickly morphed into a probe of the alleged vehicle-rebirthing racket.

They raided a storage facility on the Bellarine Peninsula on February 2, recovering stolen property estimated to be worth $460,000, and found a further $400,000 of allegedly stolen goods in the shed where Donnelly and Fenton slept a week later, the court was told.

It was also claimed the pair had an assault rifle with a magazine of ammunition near them and a loaded .22 revolver.

The Donnelly family home was raided shortly after his arrest, where police say they found a “treasure trove” of stolen property and evidence, including three Aerochute flying machines, as well as the applicant’s Rebels colours.

Donnelly is presently facing 85 charges, but police expect to lay more as their investigation continues, with Sen-Constable Epingstall predicting the haul of stolen property will have a combined value close to $2 million.

The evidence being compiled against him includes footage from a police air wing of a pursuit on the Geelong-Melbourne Rd from last September, when police say Donnelly drove through a road works site at 140km/h before abandoning the vehicle and hiding a revolver nearby.

The court was told Donnelly was later questioned near the scene, the gun was located and searches of the vehicle uncovered 100gm or methylamphetamine, $60,000 cash and a mobile phone.

Mr Mellas heard Donnelly was unemployed after closing down his business — Concrete Kings — in 2015, and that his drug-taking habits escalated a year ago when he struggled to cope with the pressure of managing the books for his wife’s cafe.

His parents, Kevin and Sue, were at the hearing, offering to put a $190,000 block of land as surety should he be given bail and pay for a $30,000, three-month drug rehabilitation program in Woodend.

But the prosecution opposed the application.

“I don’t think there’s any bail conditions that would alleviate my fear (that he would recommit offences) ... it was just too lucrative an enterprise for him,” Sen-Constable Eppingstall said.

The detective also told the court a previous theft case against Donnelly was overturned at appeal after a key witness refused the testify.

He told the court police believed that person had been intimidated by the Rebels.

Donnelly is scheduled to appear in the County Court in June.

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