A casino high roller has been accused of leading a double life as a sophisticated cat burglar who targeted the homes of rich foreigners, spending millions of dollars at Crown each year despite being unemployed.
An 18-month investigation into stealthily executed burglaries in some of Melbourne's wealthiest suburbs that spanned a decade culminated in a search on the home of 53-year-old Chinese national Di Miao in early 2015.
Beneath Mr Miao's sprawling Doncaster house, Monash Crime Investigation Unit detectives allegedly uncovered thousands of luxury items including watches, jewellery, rare and imported alcoholic drinks and designer handbags.
Mr Miao was later charged over dozens of burglaries committed in Toorak, Balwyn, Glen Waverly, Kew and Wheelers Hill. He has yet to plead to any of the charges and detectives are moving to locate the owners of about 500 unclaimed items believed to be worth millions.
The investigating team was led by Detective Senior Sergeant Nathan Kaeser, one of the men who connected a series of attacks on sex workers to the then relatively unknown Adrian Bayley.
Mr Miao is understood to have arrived in Australia about 12 years ago and has been unemployed for at least a decade during which time he was known to frequent high roller tables at Crown Casino.
Police would not say whether he had been receiving welfare payments.
His alleged victims are believed to include other high rollers of Chinese heritage.
The investigation into the origins and final destinations of the stolen luxury goods believed to have been linked to Mr Miao has taken detectives all over the world and involved assistance from police in Europe and Asia.
"Police will be alleging that this individual had been committing these burglaries at high-end suburbs, targeting certain nationalities over that period of time, Senior Sergeant Kaeser said.
"Police will allege that he's also put a significant amount of money through the casino over the past five years, approximately $2.2 million a year.
"There will be other investigations offshoots from this matter."
Senior Sergeant Kaeser said the full value of the recovered items, which included watches valued at about $50,000 each and international liquor worth $2000 a bottle, would be in the millions of dollars.
He said police would allege Mr Miao had been committing these burglaries over a 10-year period.
"At the time of executing the search warrant we recovered a huge amount of property [of] which I would suggest about a third we've located owners for and returned the property, the rest we're still working through," he said.
One detective spent six weeks working solely on the origins of the items.
"A lot of these Prada bags for instance there may have been 50 made in the world, we've been able to trace through offshore connections and owners in relation to those particular items and watches as well," Senior Sergeant Kaeser said.
But detectives have yet to identify the owners of about 500 items and will hold an open day at the Oakleigh Police Station over the weekend for possible victims to come forward and inspect the items.
To make a claim to the property they will need to be able to show some evidence of ownership or having reported the item stolen.
The station was inundated with hundreds of phone calls from Victoria and interstate after putting the call out for owners on Friday morning.
The unclaimed luxury items can be viewed from 10am to 1pm Saturday and Sunday at 1 Atherton Street in Oakleigh.
Mr Miao is expected to next appear in the Melbourne Magistrates Court for a committal mention on February 11.