EXCLUSIVE INVESTIGATION – PART THREE: Having been kicked out of two offices and then their own websites, the owners of Australia’s largest LGBTIQ media group, Evo Media, can now claim a dubious hat-trick of sorts after being locked out of their recently purchased Woolloomooloo cafe for failing to pay rent as authorities get ready to swoop.
The latest lockout for Evo Media comes as party promoters prepare to file an official police complaint of fraud against the company and its banned director, Mark Christopher Anthony, as well as its official sole director, Dean Anthony Bell, after actions by the publishing house allegedly forced an upcoming major dance event to be cancelled. True Crime News Weekly editor, Serkan Ozturk, delves further into the festering mess.
- ASIC SAID TO HAVE LAUNCHED MAJOR CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION INTO EVO MEDIA
- DANCE PARTY PROMOTERS TO CONTACT POLICE OVER ALLEGED NEW FRAUD
- FUJI XEROX CALLS IN REPO TEAM FOR UNPAID BILL OF ALMOST $15,000
- MORE EVO MEDIA EMPLOYEES QUIT OVER MONTHS OF UNPAID WAGES AS CONTRIBUTORS CHASE INVOICES FOR OVER A YEAR TO NO AVAIL
- BANNED EVO MEDIA DIRECTOR MARK ANTHONY CAUGHT OUT IN BIZARRE WEB OF LIES
- FED-UP NEIGHBOURS IN EXCLUSIVE POTTS POINT APARTMENT BUILDING ALLEGE THEY ARE OWED MORE THAN $35,000 IN UNPAID STRATA FEES
- POLITICIANS REMAIN SILENT ON GROWING SCANDAL & EVO MEDIA LINKS
True Crime News Weekly has also been informed by sources that Mr Anthony’s own personal assistant hasn’t been paid for the past six weeks.
Our continuing investigation first published earlier this month unveiled a litany of potential crimes, including the long-term underpayment of wages, entitlements and superannuation as well as Mr Anthony’s alleged illegal activities as company director.
Mr Anthony, 49, was banned by ASIC from being Evo Media’s company director after the businessman drove its previous incarnation known as Evolution Publishing into the ground in 2013 owing hundreds of thousands of dollars to employees, creditors and the Tax Office. Another of Mr Anthony’s companies, Blue Leaf Food Group which publicly traded as ‘Nature’s Selection, was placed into administration just 12 months before in 2012 with employees there also allegedly owed hundreds of thousands of dollars in superannuation and entitlements.
It is alleged that Mr Bell – who is Mr Anthony’s romantic and business partner – acted as a front to allow Mr Anthony to illegally operate Evo Media. Mr Bell, 44, was previously the general manager of Evolution Publishing. The pair have operated the media company in both its incarnations for a total of about 15 years.
Coupled to that are credible accusations about long-running advertising and circulation scams centred around highly inflated print and distribution numbers for magazine titles. On occasions, magazines were apparently not printed or distributed at all with employees who raised questions about such matters being ostracised or dismissed.
More freelance contributors have as well come out of the closet to allege the company has not paid them what they are owed for 12 months.
“I’m a photography contributor for Gay News Network,” one photographer told True Crime News Weekly after the second part of our investigation was published this month.
“I have been chasing payment going back to May 2016 totaling $1,000.”
READ OUR EXCLUSIVE INVESTIGATION IN FULL
Evo Media is the owner of a raft of queer magazine titles such as SX, MCV, Queensland Pride and Blaze as well as high-profile websites, Gay News Network and SameSame – both of which remain ghost ships with the websites either offline or having not been updated for over three weeks.
The company’s original websites for both titles were switched off a number of weeks ago due to webmasters being owed almost $10,000.
Simple WordPress template sites took their place with years-worth of archives and important cultural and community history no longer available to view, but sources have informed True Crime News Weekly the ‘relaunched’ websites will soon too be shut off thanks to a failure again to pay the new webmasters.
The company’s social media accounts have also laid dormant for the past few weeks. But Evo Media’s online presence or lack thereof may be the least of the beleaguered company’s problems with new serious allegations of fraud levelled at Mr Anthony and Mr Bell.
DANCE PARTY PROMOTERS ALLEGE LATEST SERIOUS FRAUD BY EVO MEDIA
The Ultimate 90’s Dance Party was supposed to be held at the Midnight Shift in Sydney’s traditional but decaying queer heartland of Oxford Street mid-next-month and cater to hundreds of party-goers. But now the event won’t be going ahead at all, with Evo Media’s actions “sending the event broke”, according to its promoters.
“It is with a heavy heart, we have had to cancel the Ultimate 90’s Dance Party on May 19th 2017,” promoters Tiger Touring said in a press release this week.
“The reasons for cancellation are … due to the fraudulent credit purchase by a company who purchased 350 tickets to the event on a line of credit, which they did not pay for which resulted in tickets being cancelled and reput into the sale system for sale.
“Since being released back into the system there has only been an amount of 80 tickets sold.”
Sources close to Tiger Touring have confirmed to True Crime News Weekly the company in question is Evo Media.
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“Last Monday (April 17) is when payment was due by,” a source told True Crime News Weekly.
“Nothing was received by Wednesday so tickets were cancelled and placed back into system for sale.”
The source said Tiger Touring had even paid Evo Media to help advertise the event, all of which had come to be a complete waste with websites not being updated and full runs of magazines seemingly not being printed or distributed in recent weeks.
“Because of him [Mr Anthony] we now have Moshtix and Ticketebo contacting all ticket holders … to also process their refunds,” the source continued.
“They are dodgy as hell.”
The source confirmed to True Crime News Weekly that promoters will be going to police with their claims about alleged fraudulent activity by Mr Anthony and Mr Bell.
“They should be [in jail] but I lost faith in NSW Police and the criminal system years ago,” the source added.
FUJI XEROX CALLS IN REPO TEAM AS WEB OF LIES WEAVED
Global print group Fuji Xerox has as well joined the long line of creditors chasing Mr Anthony and his crumbling media empire. The company was forced to send debt collectors and a repossession team earlier this month after Evo Media was left owing close to $15,000 for the cost of printers.
Strangely, in his dealings with the print company Mr Anthony thought it prudent to tell a number of bald-faced lies about his current business situation as well as about the properties of third parties.
In a message to Fuji Xerox late last month, Mr Anthony claimed the office on 130 Bourke Street, Woolloomooloo which Evo Media was kicked out of in February for failing to pay rent was only a “temporary office” before they moved into their “current office”.
The company had only moved into the Bourke Street office at the turn of the year after being removed from their original offices on nearby 140 William Street, Woolloomooloo in late 2016 for owing tens of thousands of dollars in rent, according to former staff members.
“The temporary office which was a small run down terrace at 130 Bourke Street Woolloomooloo is being demolished next week,” Mr Anthony wrote in an email to Fuji Xerox on March 29.
True Crime News Weekly can confirm that Evo Media no longer has any offices whatsoever and has not occupied any since mid-February, according to current staff who all work from home or off-site.
True Crime News Weekly can as well verify the building on 130 Bourke Street is not a “small run down terrace” and still remains standing with no plans for it to be demolished, having just visited it late this month a number of weeks after its supposed demolition.
Not content with allegedly acting as a banned company director and ordering employees around while not paying their legal entitlements, Mr Anthony was seemingly also fond of throwing the grand title of “company director” around when dealing with others too.
Emails provided to True Crime News Weekly show Mr Anthony was using the title when dealing with landlords just a few months ago after Evo Media was kicked out of its offices on 140 William St, Woolloomooloo.
“Look forward to your feedback … Thanks and regards,” Mr Anthony writes in an email in December 2016 before signing off as “company director”.
Falsely acting as Evo Media’s company director however wasn’t Mr Anthony’s only alleged sleight of hand. He also had the gall to claim to a landlord that Evo Media had no “prior bankruptcy or receivership” while claiming at the same time that there were no “reasons which will affect their ability to pay the agreed rent”.
The company had been kicked out of its offices on 140 William Street only a few weeks prior for owing months in back-rent, while employees had stopped receiving their wages in full or on time since September 2016.
Further, Evo Media can thank an alleged “phoenix scam” in 2013 for its very existence after its predecessor company, Evolution Publishing, was driven into the ground by Mr Anthony owing hundreds of thousands of dollars to employees, suppliers and the Tax Office.
To top it off, Mr Anthony had the audacity to claim to the landlord that he and Mr Bell were both “good folk” and that “commercially little damage can be done to the space”.
Contrary to the boastful claims about his character, Mr Anthony would fall arrears in rent almost immediately after moving Evo Media’s offices to 130 Bourke Street and was soon ordered out.
NEIGHBOURS IN EXCLUSIVE POTTS POINT APARTMENT BLOCK SICK OF SHENANIGANS
True Crime News Weekly has also been informed that it’s not just employees, suppliers and landlords that Mr Anthony has had trouble paying appropriately and on time.
It seems neighbours in his exclusive Potts Point apartment block aren’t too enamoured either with Mr Anthony of late. Some want the queer media magnate out of the building after failing to pay more than $35,000 in strata levies and added interest over the last four months.
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The strata levy fees are required for major refurbishment work on the heritage-listed Art Deco building.
It is understood that a debt collection agency has already been engaged to recover at least $3,500 of the total sum, with the agency to pursue Mr Anthony for the entire amount in a matter of weeks.
It is believed the apartment which Mr Anthony resides in – thought to be worth at least $2 million – is under a company name of which his own elderly mother happens to be the director of. An ASIC search shows Mr Anthony founded the company – known as Property & Entertainment Corporation – in 1999 but transferred the directorship of the company to his mother in 2007.
Sources have informed True Crime News Weekly that Mr Anthony previously owned another apartment in the same Potts Point building but sold it for $850,000 a number of months after Evo Media’s predecessor company, Evolution Publishing, was placed into administration in 2013.
Real estate records also show Mr Anthony sold a Vaucluse home for $6 million just over 12 months ago.
WOOLLOOMOOLOO CAFE CRUMBLES ALONGSIDE MEDIA BUSINESS
Mirroring the manner Mr Anthony and Mr Bell have seemingly run their failing media empire, the couple have been removed and locked out of the Locanda Olivetti cafe in Woolloomooloo which they operate having breached rental and and other contractual agreements.
Owners of the building moved to lock out the pair just before the ANZAC Day long weekend, with Mr Bell spotted in hysterics when he attended the cafe on the morning of Friday, April 21 only to discover it was all shut off.
A public notice has been placed alerting passers-by the lease on the cafe has been repudiated due to Mr Anthony being “currently in arrears of rent among other payments”.
Suppliers to the cafe have previously told True Crime News Weekly that they too are owed tens of thousands of dollars.
The cafe is situated on the ground floor of the same building on 140 William Street, Woolloomooloo where Evo Media’s offices were based on the third floor until December 2016 when they were booted out for owing months of rent.
According to business records, Mr Anthony purchased the cafe in early 2016 despite apparently not having the funds or capital to pay his own employees their superannuation going back years.
CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION LAUNCHED BY ASIC WITH POLICE ALSO READY TO GO AS POLITICIANS STAY SILENT OVER LINKS TO EVO MEDIA
The latest troubles for the floundering company comes with sources confirming to True Crime News Weekly that the corporate regulator ASIC has commenced a major criminal investigation into goings-on at Evo Media stretching back years.
“It looks like ASIC has enough evidence to pursue Mr Anthony and Mr Bell for the phoenix scam and a lot more as well,” one source said.
That view has been backed up by a second source.
It has also come to the attention of True Crime News Weekly that a number of current employees have made anonymous reports about the company to ASIC in the past fortnight.
ASIC would not provide comment to True Crime News Weekly on the basis of not being legally allowed to discuss possible criminal investigations that may be taking place.
With ASIC unable to shed any further light, True Crime News Weekly this week contacted NSW Police on whether it was aware of the serious allegations of long-term criminal activity taking place at Evo Media.
Surry Hills police commander, Assistant Commissioner Tony Crandell – who is also the police force’s spokesperson on sexuality and gender diversity – had a regular column in Evo Media’s flagship title, SX Magazine, that has run for the past few years.
The column began after Mr Anthony and Mr Bell engaged in their alleged phoenix scam following the fall of Evolution Publishing in 2013.
Questions were sent this week to NSW Police about whether it was concerned about its media partner and whether it was worried the police force’s reputation may have been tarnished over its relationship with a company engaging in alleged long-term criminal activity.
“While Assistant Commissioner Crandell has written material for the magazine in the past, obviously if a complaint is made to police of a criminal nature an investigation will follow, which is an independent process entirely from his contribution to the magazine,” a NSW Police spokesperson said.
True Crime News Weekly also contacted members of NSW Parliament’s LGBTI Cross Party Working Group following calls made by members of Sydney’s queer community as well as Evo Media’s own employees and former staff for politicians to speak out and give them support on the distressing situation they find themselves in.
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The group includes Independent Sydney MP Alex Greenwich, Labor MLC Penny Sharpe, Greens MP Jenny Leong, Liberal MPs Bruce Notley-Smith and Don Harwin, as well as Nationals MLC Trevor Khan.
Both Mr Greenwich and Ms Sharpe were sent written warnings about the potential criminal activities of Evo Media in 2013 along with the likes of the AIDS Council of NSW (ACON) and Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras.
Many of the parliamentary group’s members and their political parties have previously advertised with Evolution Publishing and then Evo Media even after the alleged phoenix scam in 2013; while they were also present at last year’s ACON Honour Awards sponsored by the flailing media company.
The parliamentary group was handed the ACON President’s Award during the awards night for its advocacy work on a range of issues affecting the queer community.
True Crime News Weekly asked members of the group if they were concerned or worried for the wellbeing of LGBTIQ employees as well as for former staff, suppliers and contributors who are owed hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Further queries were posed to the group on whether it was alarmed by the level of alleged criminal activity taking place at Evo Media.
Questions were also sent to the group about any concerns they may have about the corporate governance of ACON, which derives much of its $10 million budget from NSW taxpayers.
As highlighted in the first part of our investigation, ACON has spent perhaps millions of dollars in government-derived funds with Evo Media and Evolution Publishing over the years, with previous contracts showing the LGBTIQ bureacratic health body had a minimum annual spend of $300,000 with the publishing house.
ACON then continued to lavish large amounts of taxpayers’ money with the media group over the past four years despite a detailed written warning sent to its CEO Nicolas Parkhill and others in 2013 about the alleged rorts being pulled by Evo Media.
LISTEN TO EVO MEDIA COMPANY DIRECTOR MARK ANTHONY GO ALL SILENT WHEN CONFRONTED BY TRUE CRIME NEWS WEEKLY
While in recent weeks, ACON also for some reason decided to reward former longserving Evo Media and Evolution Publishing “senior manager”, Reg Domingo, with a high-profile role as its Head of Media and Marketing.
ACON has so far refused to answer questions about the circumstances surrounding Mr Domingo’s appointment. When the scandal broke earlier this month, Mr Parkhill decided to go “on leave” for two weeks.
True Crime News Weekly however understands that Mr Domingo complained to ACON’s hierarchy a couple months ago that even he was no longer being paid his wages by Mr Anthony and Mr Bell. Soon after, he had a new job at ACON. While his former colleagues at Evo Media were left to fumble in the dark.
Interestingly, despite Mr Domingo’s menacing legal threats towards True Crime News Weekly and loud protestations earlier this month that he was “not an officer of Evo Media” and was only “responsible for editorial and creative decisions”, another document has been unearthed suggesting Mr Domingo was busy engaging in other activities on behalf of the company.
His duties seemingly also stretched to helping look for a new office on the company’s behalf after Evo Media was booted out of its offices on 140 William Street last December, according to an email message Mr Anthony sent to a third party late last year.
A number of former colleagues of Mr Domingo have come forward to admit to True Crime News Weekly that the longtime “managing editor” at Evo Media was well aware of some of the alleged corporate rorts occurring at the company for many years.
“Domingo is a serial liar claiming he never held any senior positions within the company,” a former Melbourne-based news editor for Evolution Publishing told True Crime News Weekly this week. “He interviewed me for my job way back in December 2010.”
Although being owed up to $50,000 in superannuation himself, Mr Domingo never reported Mr Anthony or Mr Bell to financial regulators or other authorities after a decade with the company.
Mr Domingo only made a report to the ATO earlier this month after first hiring a high-priced legal team when faced with tough questions from True Crime News Weekly about his behaviour while employed with both Evolution Publishing and Evo Media.
Meanwhile, all the members of NSW Parliament’s LGBTI Cross Party Working Group have chosen to exercise their silence so far on the widening and growing scandal despite repeated requests for comment by True Crime News Weekly.
One can only hope they find their public voice after viewing these latest serious revelations. Silence may be golden but the truth will set you free.
DISCLOSURE: True Crime News Weekly editor Serkan Ozturk was employed with Evolution Publishing between 2011-13 and was the person who first blew the whistle on the company over its consistent failure to pay employee entitlements and superannuation as well as claims of circulation and advertising rorts. If you have any information about this investigation, get in contact with True Crime News Weekly.