A MAN accused of using images of terminally ill children to run a fake charity while allegedly pocketing the profits will formally fight the charges in court next year.
Christopher Ellingburg, 49, appeared in the Bendigo Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday charged with conspiracy to defraud, obtain financial advantage by deception, obtain property by deception and other charges.
Police allege he set up the charity stalls outside shopping centres and supermarkets across Bendigo, and sporting venues in Melbourne, but he was allegedly taking the profits for himself.
Ellingburg, along with co-accused Bradley Millick, 42, and Luke Riddick, 32, intend to fight the charges.
During the brief hearing in the Bendigo Magistrates’ Court, Magistrate John Murphy threatened to place Ellingburg in custody after he interrupted proceedings by saying the court needed to “get in order”.
Ellingburg appeared frustrated that a change to bail conditions would not be considered during the hearing.
Mr Murphy said Ellingburg needed to respect the court process.
“I can stand it down, he can go in custody if he wants,” he said.
“If he wants to start carrying on, he can wait until 4 o’clock or perhaps the next day. There’s 140 matters in the list today.”
Ellingburg describes himself as the “pastor” of the Grace Christian Centre of Australia, which police allege is a fraudulent charitable organisation.
Ellingburg, Millick and Riddick were living in Harcourt at the time of the alleged offences, but have since moved to a rural residence near Wonthaggi.
Police raided their Harcourt address on May 29, seizing 19 collection tins, multiple Eftpos machines and documentation. The three men were arrested and bailed following the raid.
Detective Sergeant Colin Grenfell led the investigation into the alleged fraud ring, and earlier told a court he had investigated Ellingburg in the past.
Sergeant Grenfell claimed the three men had multiple aliases, and described their alleged offending as “sophisticated”.
Ellingburg, Riddick and Millick will appear at a two-day committal hearing in the Bendigo Magistrates’ Court on March 22 where their legal representatives can cross-examine witnesses and the police informant.
Their bail was extended to that date, with strict reporting conditions to Wonthaggi police.