Vince Santoro owner of Elite Civil Group. Supplied Photo: Supplied
An excavation firm, whose owner vanished claiming to be in police protection while owing more than $5 million in unpaid bills, has made an application to access more money from the sale of two Sydney properties.
Vincent Santoro, the director of Elite Civil Group, vanished from Sydney in February 2014 amid claims from subcontractors he owed at least $5 million in unpaid debts across seven construction sites to more than 50 firms.
It led to bikie gangs turning up at construction sites across Sydney and loading machinery onto trucks in a bid to reclaim debts.
At one site bikies even took the microwave from the staff kitchen and loose change from a worker’s pocket.
Now, Elite Civil Group and its liquidator Mitchell Warren Bell have made an application in the NSW Supreme Court to be paid money held by the court on behalf of Mr Santoro’s wife, Rene Santoro.
That money is from the court-ordered sale of two homes in Mrs Santoro’s name – one at Horningsea Park in Sydney’s south-west and the other in the southern suburb of Barden Ridge.
Creditors have contacted Fairfax Media concerned they still will not see any of the $5 million in payments they are owed by Mr Santoro, who was most recently seen fishing in far north Queensland.
In the days before he was last seen in Sydney, Mr Santoro transferred $500,000 in 12 transactions from his company’s bank accounts into that of his wife.
Mr Santoro later told a hearing in the Federal Court of Australia that he did so because he was being extorted and forced to pay $300,000 to a known identity.
He told the court he paid the money because he had been sent a text message that read: “Vince, you dog, Vince you dog. If you don’t go and withdraw that 100k and bring it to me today I’m gonna … kill your dog of a son. Got it?”
But Mr Santoro’s phone records, and those of the person he claimed to have been extorted by, were produced before the court and revealed the threatening message was never sent.
Mr Santoro claimed he visited Green Valley police station a few days later and was placed in “police asylum”.
He told the court that due to the level of threats he received over a 48-hour period, he was told he was being put in protection and moved away. The $500,000 he withdrew from the company accounts were meant to be his living expenses, he told the court.
Fairfax Media has ascertained that Mr Santoro is not in police custody.
During the court hearing Mr Santoro also admitted to having a membership to an exclusive level of The Star casino for “spending more than the average person on the gaming floor”.
At the time he fled Sydney in February 2014, Mr Santoro and his family also had more than 40 bank accounts in their names.
He is now understood to be living in Cairns while court action continues in a bid to recoup the money he owes.
Mr Santoro has previously been the manager of more than a dozen companies, all of which have been “sunk” or deregistered.
Bank statements, viewed by Fairfax Media, show Mr Santoro transferred hundreds of thousands of dollars from the company’s bank account into personal accounts via a number of transactions between December 2013 and February 2014.
His bank accounts were frozen by the courts after he attempted to withdraw money from a bank in South Australia in the weeks after he left Sydney.
Fairfax Media was unable to reach Mr Santoro for comment.