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Fruit farmer fined for ripping off workers

A fruit picker picks strawberries. Image: Getty

A Victorian farmer has been fined more than $140,000 for ripping off fruit pickers and trying to cover his tracks using fake pay slips.

The Swan Hill-based stone fruit company, Zucco Farming, and its director and part-owner Chris Zucco, deliberately underpaid two Malaysian workers by $13,529 in 2015 and 2016.

The Fair Work Ombudsman said the employees, a man aged in his 20s and his father-in-law, were paid between $15 and $17 an hour despite being entitled to $21.61, and $38.90 on public holidays.

When one of the men asked why his pay slips showed an hourly rate of $21 and asked to be paid the lawful rate, Mr Zucco said "I am not paying you $21 ... I do that just for my book work".

Zucco and his company also gave Fair Work inspectors false recordings which understated how many hours the men worked and overstated their pay.

Federal Circuit Court judge Anthony Kelly said the director and company had persistently attempted to deceive the ombudsman.

He handed Zucco Farming a $120,000 penalty and fined Chris Zucco $24,000.

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