Police hunt Salvos swindler

A FORMER Latrobe Valley conman who has been missing for three years is wanted by police after he allegedly stole a blank cheque book at the Traralgon Salvation Army after the 2009 bushfires.

Latrobe Crime Investigation Unit’s Detective Senior Constable Jason Benbow said a nationwide search had been launched for Philip John Thomas, who reportedly signed up as a volunteer with the Salvos in the wake of the fires and cashed several of the cheques, valued in excess of $40,000.

“There is also an outstanding warrant for arrest for a similar matter in Rosedale in 1998 where he flogged a blank cheque book, and similar deceptions interstate,” Det Snr Const Benbow said.

Det Snr Const Benbow said Thomas was possibly just “passing through” the Latrobe Valley at the time, reportedly staying at a local caravan park.

“He joined up the Salvos as a volunteer amid an influx of victim requests; he was just there for four days,” he said.

“(Thomas) is known to have family in Victoria.”

According to reports, Thomas was believed to have been in various parts of Australia, including Alice Springs, Sydney, Perth, Adelaide, Queensland and Tasmania.

He was believed to be in Launceston recently; police also believed he had stayed in a homeless shelter in Burnie, Tasmania, in 2010.

Anyone with information on Thomas’ whereabouts should phone Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.