A 21-year-old Yagoona woman has been charged over allegedly providing private information obtained via her employment at a state government agency to alleged kidnappers.
Police will allege that at about 5:20am on Thursday 9 March 2023, a group of armed men stormed into a Smithfield home and grabbed Peter Vuong, a 26-year-old man.
He was subsequently forced into a waiting vehicle, with the vehicle fleeing before police arrived.
A harrowing ordeal is alleged to have then occurred, with police finding Vuong five days later.
Detectives from the State Crime Command’s Robbery and Serious Crime Squad established ‘Strike Force Kkuoa’ to investigate the incident, assisted by Fairfield City Police Area Command.
Ultimately, tactical police had to force entry into a Belmore house to free him, with Detective Superintendent Joe Doueihi stating that Vuong ‘was tortured’.
He noted that this involved firearms, sledgehammers, and the physical removal of teeth.
His teeth were allegedly removed by placing a pistol in his mouth, which was used to dislodge them, before they were eventually removed with pliers.
Images were sent to a friend of Vuong’s family, Mr Tranh Dinh, with the kidnappers allegedly requesting a $5 million ransom.
On the day Vuong was freed, being Tuesday 14 March 2023, six men were arrested over their alleged involvement in the incident.
The men – Viliami Siasau, 19, Valali Tonga, 20, Sunia Siasau, 20, and John Totau Fahamokioa, 20, Lolo Liavaa, 19 and Kitueau Tatafu, 21 – were charged with numerous offences including detain in company with intent to ransom, aggravated break and enter, and grievous bodily harm.
Apart from Mr Tatafu, who was released on strict bail conditions, all men remain remanded in custody with their matters before the courts.
Following further inquiries made by Strike Force Kkuoa, Sira Elkheir, the 21-year-old Yagoona woman, was arrested, taken to Auburn Police Station, and charged on Wednesday 12 April 2023.
She was charged with take/detain in company with intent to ransom occasion actual bodily harm, unauthorised function with intent serious offence, access/modify restricted data held in computer, and participate criminal group contribute criminal activity.
Police will allege that during her employment at Service NSW, Elkheir accessed personal data, which was shared with others, for the purpose of the criminal activity.
The data is alleged to have included the personal details of Mr Vuong’s father as well as Mr Tran Dinh, whose wife is reported to be friends with the victim’s family.
On the 10 March 2023, which was approximately 11 hours after Vuong was kidnapped, Elkheir is alleged to have accessed the licence details of Dinh’s wife.
The police will also allege that the images of a distressed Mr Vuong were able to be sent to Mr Dinh, due to the men being able to obtain his details via Ms Elkheir.
During their demands for ransom in return for Mr Vuong, police allege that the men sent driver’s licences photographs to Mr Dinh, of himself and his wife.
Elkheir applied for bail on 13 April 2023, with this subsequently granted on strict conditions including a $300,000 surety which was agreed to be lodged by her father.
The case is next to be heard before Parramatta Local Court on 8 June 2023.
Part 6 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) criminalises some computer-related offences.
Unauthorised Computer Function Offences in Australia
Section 308C makes it an offence to cause any unauthorised computer function with the intention of committing or facilitating a serious indictable offence.
An unauthorised computer function includes unauthorised access to data, unauthorised modification of data, or any unauthorised impairment of electronic communication to or from any computer.
In order to commit the offence, the person is required to know the function is not authorised, with this meaning that they are not entitled to have caused the relevant access, modification, or impairment.
The maximum penalty applicable is the maximum penalty if the person had committed, or facilitated the commission of, the relevant serious indictable offence.
A serious indictable offence is any offence which carries a maximum of 5 years imprisonment or more.
However, where the serious indictable offence involved carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment or less, the matter will be considered a ‘Table 1’ matter.
If an offence is a ‘Table 1’ offence, the prosecution or the defence may elect to have the matter dealt with on indictment in the District Court. If it is not elected, it will remain in the Local Court.
In the Local Court, the maximum penalty is limited to 2 years imprisonment and/or a $11,00 fine.
Unauthorised Access or Modification of Restricted Data Held in a Computer
Section 308H criminalises causing any unauthorised access to or modification of restricted data held in a computer, knowing that the access or modification is unauthorised, and whilst intending to do so.
The maximum penalty applicable is 2 years imprisonment, with the offence being summary in nature.
This means that it will always be heard in the Local Court before a Magistrate.
The Act defines ‘restricted data’ as data held in a computer which is restricted by an access control system associated with a function of the computer.
By Poppy Morandin.