An Irish tourist used illegally obtained credit card numbers to live in luxury during a six-week crime spree in Australia that has been compared by his lawyer with the wild bachelor party in the comedy film The Hangover.
Michael Hegarty, 27, from a village in County Meath, and two younger offenders posed as children of rich parents during their binge on credit cards between October and December last year.
The trio’s crimes – which involved deceptions using credit-card numbers bought on an internet site for $9 each – were targeted in a special operation by the Victoria Police fraud and extortion squad.
Melbourne Magistrates Court heard this week Hegarty, Laurence Pawlaczyk, 19, and Daniel Pike, 20, lived lavishly in Melbourne, including at Crown Towers, hired limousines, took Qantas flights and ate well.
Leading Senior Constable Roy Brandi told the court the men first tested the cards’ viability by making donations to the Red Cross before they defrauded between $30,000 and $35,000.
Leading Senior Constable Brandi said before their arrest in Sydney and extradition to Melbourne in January, they stayed at the Palazzo Versace on the Gold Coast and later the Hilton Surfers Paradise, where they ran drunk through the foyer wearing balaclavas.
They then travelled to Airlie Beach and Hamilton Island, where they damaged a golf buggy while drunk and were escorted from the resort.
Pawlaczyk, Pike and Hegarty, all of no fixed address, each pleaded guilty on Monday to multiple deception-related charges and yesterday reappeared in court.
Hegarty’s defence solicitor, Katherine Rolfe, told the magistrate, Lance Martin, she did not want to ”make light of the situation, but you may be familiar with the film The Hangover”.
”Well,” Ms Rolfe said, ”this is the case of the hangover gone wrong, and Mr Hegarty has borne the brunt of that.”
She said that Hegarty’s co-defendants and police agreed he was the ”weakest link”, a naive older man whom Pawlaczyk admitted they corrupted and ”socially engineered”.
Jacqui Hession, for Pawlaczyk, said her client had a background of drug and alcohol abuse, and mixing with the wrong associates, which led to frequent offending.
Pike’s lawyer, Nadia Morales, said her client met Pawlaczyk in custody in Tasmania and had similar substance-abuse issues including an ”ice” habit.
Mr Martin sentenced Pawlaczyk to 103 days’ jail – the time already served on remand – and a 12-month community correction order that included 200 hours of unpaid work.
Pike and Hegarty will be sentenced next week.