As we are about to reveal, what you see with Joey Russell -- or Blind Joey as he likes to call himself -- is not what you end up getting. He is in fact a convicted fraudster and a conman who has left his mark in every state, using aliases like Joseph Slattery, Flattery and Lattery.
Limo driver, Lee Robson says he uses the blindness to get sympathy. He uses that to get sympathy, he uses that to get in to people's lives, he uses that to steal money from them, to live his big lifestyle because he flies business class, he stays in the best hotels, five star accommodation, eats at the best restaurants", Lee said.
Lee got to know Russell when he hired her to be his driver while living in Adelaide late last year. She says he came across as affluent, having a lot of money. "He was very big on that, he was wealthy, had a lot of money he liked to share the money around, give to charities and things like that", she added.
At the time Russell was throwing money around like confetti while schmoozing his way into the life of Kerry Summerscales -- she met him via one of the many internet dating sites he trawls. "He would pay for everything, everything he'd pay for. He would always come round with gifts and he would say you know why I do this Kerry, it's because you work really, really hard and you deserve it", Kerry said.
And to maintain his ruse of being filthy rich, Russell even tried to buy a $1.6 million home owned by Port Power star footballer, Dean Brogan. "He already started telling people about this party he was going to have and it had a nice area for Sophie, his guide dog that he was doing training with, that he'd be getting soon", Kerry said.
What they didn't know was big-spending Russell had milked almost $70,000 from pensioner Nikolai Zezelg after he had shown Russell a letter which claimed he inherited millions of euros from a deceased estate. It was an obvious scam, but Nikolai's English is poor and Russell seized the opportunity. This time he posed as a lawyer who could get him the money.
Joey admitted he lied and here are some of his big whoppers:
He received a Phd from MIT University, USA, aged 20; he is an IT security specialist for major banks; he employs 120 around Australia; he owns a unit on Sydney Harbour and homes in Perth and Adelaide; he is a Para-Olympian twice; is part owner of Adelaide 36ers basketball team; his mother (who is alive), died from breast cancer; he can only see shadows.
"He's very convincing, he's everywhere, he uses a cane and he'll even run in to stuff when that's obviously just a ploy of his to make it look legit that he actually is blind. He's even got a card to say that he's 95% blind from the Blind Association", said Scott Ruch.
When things got too hot for Blind Joey in Adelaide, he moved to Perth and it wasn't long before he conned Scott out of ten thousand dollars. "I just thought he was just a genuine good bloke. He was spending my money -- like he was wealthy, but it was actually my money as I worked out", Scott added.
Russell then took off to Hobart, so with the help of Kerry, we set up an elaborate sting to corner the ever watchful Blind Joey. Making contact with him through a dating website, I would act as his driver ferrying him to his hot blind date. It didn't take long for the lies to start flowing.
"I got a swipe card and I can walk in to any Commonwealth Bank now and any Westpac and walk straight in even when it's closing down the system. But that's why I don't advertise my company heavily anywhere because its security breach for me -- imagine if someone knew I had access like that, they're going to try and kidnap me or whatever", Blind Joey said.
And "I don't big note myself. Where a lot of people in it try to make themselves big, that's one thing I realise is very different you know".
Blind Joeys eyes lit up when we stopped for a drink at the Wrest Point Casino -- he had no problem picking up his beer, then when he slipped $50 into a pokie machine -- how could he see what he was doing? He claimed he could tell if he was winning or losing by the sound made by the machine; then he was at the pontoon table, asking me to read out the cards as they were dealt. Staring straight at them, he won seven hands in a row.
Scott says his vision is better than he is making out. "I've seen him slip up. One eye might be something wrong with it but it doesn't say anything about the other eye. I reckon he can see perfectly out the other eye", Scott claimed.
Then we headed to the restaurant where we had a couple of surprises in store for Blind Joey. One of them was Scott Ruch who we had flown in from Perth and there was a message from Nikolai Zezelg for his money to be returned. That's when Blind Joey made a lightning-fast bolt for the door.
For a blind man, Joey led us on a merry chase through Hobart -- skipping down stairs; hopping over a chain before he gave up and accepted our invitation to drive him home.
He confessed along the way, saying "Because people screwed me over when I was young and I haven't got over that. Because I'm being fued over all the time. I fued up", he said.
By the time we got Joey back to his modest rented room, he promised us -- and Scott's dad, Brad Newham, he would repay all the money he had fleeced from his victims. "I'll sort it out, get it done. I'll be a man of my word and keep my word", he said.
But true to form, Joey was nowhere to be seen the next day taking an evening flight out to the mainland. "He has showed everybody he is not as blind as he makes out and people will recognise him. Someone will dob him in", Brad said.
As it turns out he even cleaned out the account of one of his room mates and we've since learned Perth Police have issued a warrant for his arrest. "He needs to be put back in jail for a longer period of time and taken out of society so he can't con people. He is obviously habitual with it and I can't see he is going to stop", Brad said.