Exposed … Frank Monte is fighting to keep his private inquiry licence.The disreputable gumshoe Frank Monte is fighting a rear-guard action to stop the NSW police stripping him of his private inquiry licence.
Police launched an inquiry into Monte after The Sun-Herald exposed his practice of creating fake names for private detectives, taking thousands of dollars from unsuspecting clients, then abusing and threatening them when they complained.
The 67-year-old former bankrupt has been told by police that his PI licence will not be renewed because he is not a fit and proper person and uses unethical business practices such as false names to rip people off.
Monte appeared before the Administrative Decisions Tribunal last week, seeking the return of his licence until the tribunal hears his case, set down for November 26. He told the tribunal he was in ”dire straits” financially and that, apart from his PI skills, ”I don’t really have any other talents”.
The hearing into Monte’s fitness to hold a licence is scheduled for four days.
After The Sun Herald article, titled ”The full Monte – this cheat wants to be mayor”, was published in April, he responded by creating a fake lawyer to threaten websites that republished the article. The mysterious ”Ian Dale” warned that Monte had commenced an action in the NSW Supreme Court and had served a summons for malicious libel on this reporter.
This, like much of Monte’s business practices, was a fiction. There is no person called Ian Dale registered as a solicitor or barrister and no such action has been filed in the Supreme Court. In his legal threats ”Mr Dale” had stated: ”The article claimed Mr Monte was the owner of businesses which he has no interest in.”
But police documents filed with the tribunal allege Monte was behind the various businesses and also used numerous pseudonyms to rip people off.
In July, the NSW police force’s Security Licensing & Enforcement Directorate notified Monte that it would not be renewing his licence. According to the SLED, it had received 100 complaints about his business practices.
Over the past 15 years, NSW Fair Trading has received 43 complaints against Monte and his associated companies. Over the same period, there have been 44 complaints about companies and private investigators trading under Monte’s pseudonyms. In court documents, police alleged Monte was behind businesses such as Monte Investigation Group, Monte Investigation Services, Mason Steele, Morgan Turner Freeman, MTFPI and Parker Taylor.
One client, John, told The Sun-Herald that he rang the Melbourne office of investigation agency Parker Taylor last year. A ”Mark Strong” had told John that several thousand dollars would be required for the work John wanted. Five weeks later Strong wanted more money. John requested a progress report before paying. After repeated calls were not returned, John threatened legal action.
So Strong emailed in reply: ”You do that, you f—ing little c—! You go ahead and take legal action, and I’ll take action against you for wasting my f—ing time! I’ll come to your house at 3.00 am and make your life a f—ing misery! Now don’t call me again you f—ing little c—!”
Imagine John’s surprise when he rang the Sydney office to complain, only to find ”Mr Strong” answering the phone. Documents tendered at the tribunal revealed an investigation by the NSW police concluded that Mark Strong was in fact a pseudonym used by Monte. His other pseudonyms included Richard Clark, Stephen Mason, Thomas J. Parker and Robert Taylor. But even more interesting were the results of police inquiries into one Thomas Steele.
When things started becoming hot for one of Monte’s companies, Morgan Turner Freeman, he solved the problem by selling it.
The only problem is the buyer, a Thomas Steele, does not exist. In 2010 Frank Monte lodged documents with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, which he certified were ”true and complete”, stating that – because he was ”retiring” – Thomas John Steele, born January 1955, was taking over his business MTFPI (which in turn operates Monte’s investigation company Morgan Turner Freeman).
Monte listed the company’s business address and Steele’s home address as an apartment in Farrell Avenue, Darlinghurst. The Sun-Herald contacted the owner of that apartment, who said no such people or business had ever occupied his unit.
Under cross-examination last week by Carlo Zoppo, representing the police, Monte was asked if Steele was known to him. ”Yes,” he replied, ”I met him several years before. I met him through friends. He was a PI and a security guard round the Kings Cross, Darlinghurst area.”
He said Steele had paid him $100,000 in cash for his business but had failed to come up with a further $200,000 which he had promised. The tribunal was also shown Monte’s sworn statutory declaration dated June 2012.
In it Monte claimed Steele ”is unreliable and has caused me much concern with our financial arrangements”. He also said Steele had refused to pay the rest of the money because of ”the negative publicity in the press”.
And he was refusing to assist Monte in his Supreme Court action against The Sun-Herald in which he was seeking ”$1 million in damages”.
Monte said he was angry that Steele ”has not been able to be found since the offending article went to press”. Asked if he was aware that police could find no record that Thomas Steele existed, Monte snapped: ”I don’t know what the police can or can’t do.”
The tribunal’s president, Judge Kevin O’Connor, ruled it was not in the public interest for Monte to have his licence returned before the November hearing.
The judge noted there was ”a lack of clarity” in Monte’s business structures and that he was ”evasive”. Some of his answers ”seemed to lack candour”.
Monte was famously sued by the family of the late fashion designer Gianni Versace after he made up a series of lies about Versace in his memoirs, The Spying Game, later dubbed The Lying Game.
Monte was bankrupted when he failed to pay the Versaces’s costs.
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