Former AFL player Nicholas James Stevens will face trial in October after being charged with receiving $171,397 under the pretence of installing swimming pools in Mildura, Victoria, and for using a false document.
The ABC reports Mildura Magistrates Court heard Stevens crafted “colourful” excuses to avoid building swimming pools he had already been paid for.
He is accused of first obtaining $3000 by deception in January 2017, later accepting six similar sums and six larger amounts up to $30,483 across the year. He is also charged with making and using a false document for a $15,549 pool to be delivered without payment.
Stevens pleaded not guilty to the charges at the conclusion of a two-day committal hearing.
However, Magistrate Michael Coghlan said there was sufficient evidence for a jury to find him guilty, and that there was no evidence to the contrary.
His bail was extended with conditions and was directed to appear before the County Court in October.
Lack of permits
The Court heard Stevens moved to become a registered builder in 2016 while still in jail for separate offences. His girlfriend at the time reached out to building company Bricol Building Projects Pty Ltd to train Stevens after he was released from jail that year.
The former Carlton vice-captain also became a dealer for Leisure Pools, building six pools legally while completing his required training.
Bricol’s Brian McDonnell told the court his company was only involved in the six legal projects. The last of these projects was completed in July 2018, the court heard.
The court heard witness Rodney Charman, who was a police officer at the time in question, paid Stevens between $35,000 and $40,000 dollars for a pool.
Charman said Stevens did not tell him a permit was required for the project, and only disclosed that he was not a registered builder “toward the very end of the consultation process”, when Stevens said he was having problems gaining a building permit for the pool.
Charman told the court it initially seemed Mr Stevens genuinely wanted to install a pool at his property.
“But of course, suspicions arise when the stories change each time and a different excuse comes about,” Charman said.
“In the first round of excuses, I thought they were genuine and out of his control, but then they became a little more varying and colourful and my suspicions arose that we weren’t going to be receiving a pool.”
Witness David Byrnes told the court he had played football with Stevens and they had been friends for almost a decade. He said Stevens told him he didn’t need a new permit to build a pool at the property, because he was renovating an old pool on the site.
The court heard a council worker however inspected the property and issued a stop-work order because Stevens did not have a permit.
Byrnes said he later reached out to a building surveyor on his own accord to acquire the correct permit, because “it became quite clear that Stevo couldn’t”.
Stevens, 41, played 231 games in the AFL for Port Adelaide and Carlton, retiring in 2009.