Taskforce Lunar charge two men following Craigieburn extortion

Detectives from the Lunar Taskforce have charged two men overnight following the alleged extortion of Craigieburn tobacco store on Tuesday evening.

With assistance from the Special Operations Group, the Armed Crime Squad and the VIPER Taskforce, the two men were taken into custody yesterday evening.

A 21-year-old Mickleham man was arrested by the Special Operations Group on Bourke Street in the CBD shortly before 6pm.

He was charged with extortion with threats to destroy/endanger property, reckless conduct endangering serious injury and unlicensed driving.

A silver Mercedes Benz he was driving was seized during his arrest and will now be forensically examined.

A 21-year-old Greenvale man was arrested by police just after 10pm.

He has since been charged with threats to destroy/endanger property.

The duo will appear at Melbourne Magistrates’ Court today.

The charges follow an incident late Tuesday evening when a member of staff and the owner of a convenience store on Fairways Boulevard in Craigieburn were threatened by a number of men trying to allegedly extort the business.

Police have been told two men entered the store shortly after 10.30pm on Tuesday evening (13 February).

It is believed they initially spoke to a member of staff, before demanding to see the owner as there was someone on the phone who needed to speak to him.

The male voice on the phone allegedly threatened the owner of the store, suggesting that if they wouldn’t pay up, their store would be firebombed.

The victim refused, and there was a verbal confrontation between the parties before the two men fled the premises in a silver Mercedes Benz.

Nobody was physically injured during the incident.

The investigation remains ongoing.

Anyone with information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or submit a confidential report online at www.crimestoppersvic.com.au

Quotes attributable to Commander Paul O’Halloran, Crime Command:

“These are key arrests and testament to the work led by Taskforce Lunar to target those involved in these organised crime syndicates.

“This was an offence with direct links to those at the top of the syndicate and one that was also designed to create significant fear through the intimidation of the victims. The police and the community expect these offenders to be held to account for their violence and intimidation.

“However, we know that this fight is far from over – while we will continue to do everything we can to disrupt the serious and violent offending linked to these groups, we still have those willing to target stores through arson attacks and more.

“The assistance we receive from the community is crucial in bringing a stop to this and again, I want to appeal to those who work in this industry or have business near tobacco stores to come forward and provide police with any information they have.

“To be blunt, we know there are people out there with information that could assist us.

“If there are shop owners out there who have been approached to pay sums of money or who have been threatened in any way, then we urge you to contact police.

“The arson attacks in particular put not only people’s livelihoods at stake but also people’s lives. We are doing everything we can to bring this dispute and the criminality linked to it to an end, however we need your support and assistance.”

/Public Release. View in full here.