Willem Ungermann, better known as Willem Powerfish to his fans, leaving Tweed Heads Local Court with defence lawyer Corey Cullen. Picture: Jodie Callcott.
Willem Ungermann, better known as Willem Powerfish to his fans, leaving Tweed Heads Local Court with defence lawyer Corey Cullen. Picture: Jodie Callcott.

GUILTY: How much social media prankster was fined for stunts

LATEST: A social media prankster convicted of negligent boat use and environmental crimes will consult a lawyer for future stunts, a court has heard.

Willem Ian Ungermann, 35, from Coolangatta, has amassed some 315,000 followers on Instagram for his outrageous pranks, mostly on Tweed waterways.

Over a 2019 prank at a Fingal Head boat ramp which resulted in a car and trailer sinking into the Tweed River, Ungermann pleaded guilty to not reversing a vehicle safely, driving without proper control of a vehicle, negligently disposing of waste causing harm to the environment, polluting waters and contravening a section of the Protection of Environment Operations Act.

He pleaded guilty on Monday to a further charge of negligently operating a recreational vessel.

This charge relates to a September, 2020 prank involving two boats at Tumbulgum.

 

Social media star from the Tweed, Willem Powerfish, gave more than $60,000 to charity in the region in 2020.
Social media star from the Tweed, Willem Powerfish, gave more than $60,000 to charity in the region in 2020.

His defence solicitor, Corey Cullen, tendered to the court personal references from president and founder of Tweed charity You Have a Friend, John Lee, and IGA Tweed Valley owner Brett Bugg.

Customers at the IGA have been among those who have experienced Ungermann's charitable side firsthand; he turned up with $5000 cash last August to pay for strangers' shopping.

"Mr Ungermann's generosity and contributions to the community is nothing short of outstanding," Mr Cullen said.

"Without trivialising the matters before the court, this is a matter where a video was made in satire and in comedy."

Mr Cullen said his client had demonstrated remorse and would be taking legal advice on pranks going forward.

Willem Ian Ungermann, also known as Willem Powerfish, will face Tweed Court this month after being charged by police while filming a YouTube video.
Willem Ian Ungermann, also known as Willem Powerfish, will face Tweed Court this month after being charged by police while filming a YouTube video.

He said the operator of the other boat involved in the Tumbulgum prank was willingly involved in the prank and was "fully aware of what was happening".

Magistrate Geoff Dunlevy acknowledged there was a difference "between a staged incident and just randomly doing this to someone who's innocently using the waterway".

"Of course the nature of most comedy, especially in Australia, is that it presses against social boundaries," he said.

"When it comes to pressing the boundaries, one boundary that cannot be crossed is the law.

"If people want to lawfully do these types of things for the purpose of entertainment it's necessary for them to obtain the proper licences.

"Fundamentally it is very dangerous to speed on our waterways, to promote a collision and then to have someone jump into the water."

 

Social media star from the Tweed, Willem Powerfish, gave more than $60,000 to charity in the region in 2020.
Social media star from the Tweed, Willem Powerfish, gave more than $60,000 to charity in the region in 2020.

 

Of the 2019 Fingal incident, Mr Dunlevy said it was important to note "environmental offences are real crimes".

"When you pollute waterways … you're committing an offence against our ecology but also against our whole community because everyone's entitled to enjoy our waterways in as unsullied a fashion as possible," Mr Dunlevy said.

"You do appear to be a person of good character.

"Your referees have spoken of that.

"You also appear to be generally a charitable person; you do try to help people who are down on their luck."

Mr Dunlevy did not disqualify Ungermann from holding a marine licence, but the court heard the RMS has the power to do this.

Ungermann was fined $15,000 and sentenced to a three year community corrections order.

 

 

Willem Ian Ungermann (left), also known as Willem Powerfish, during one of his videos.
Willem Ian Ungermann (left), also known as Willem Powerfish, during one of his videos.

Original story: A social media prankster has walked free from court after being sentenced for a comedy act that breached environmental protection laws.

Willem Ian Ungermann, who goes by the name Willem Powerfish, is known for outrageous stunts in and around waterways, with most of his videos filmed on the Tweed.

Ungermann had earlier pleaded guilty to five charges including negligently disposing of waste causing environmental harm, related to a 2019 incident where he repeatedly jackknifed a car and trailer on a Fingal Rd boat ramp, before crashing into the water and sinking them in the river.

He could have faced a fine of up to $1 million, or seven years in prison, for the most serious charge.

Willem Ungermann, aka Willem Powerfish, outside Tweed Heads Local Court on Monday, February 8, 2021. Picture: Liana Boss
Willem Ungermann, aka Willem Powerfish, outside Tweed Heads Local Court on Monday, February 8, 2021. Picture: Liana Boss

When he faced Tweed Heads Local Court on Monday, Ungermann's lawyer Corey Cullen lodged a guilty plea for a further charge of operating a recreational vessel negligently.

This charge, only recently laid, arose from a September, 2020 stunt involving two boats in Tumbulgum.

Magistrate Geoff Dunlevy has issued Ungermann with $15,000 in fines and sentenced him to a three year community corrections order.

Mr Cullen tendered to the court personal references from prominent Tweed Shire residents and told the court his client's "generosity and contributions to the community" were "nothing short of outstanding".

More to come.


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