Read about some of Australia’s biggest fraud cases, and the role credit cards played in them.
This list sheds some light on those who have been proven to, or who are currently facing charges of trying to rip off the system many times, involving the use of a credit card. Some of those on this list were once powerful Australians who just wanted more, and others were shady criminals causing financial havoc in far-flung places. Rather than employing regular methods to get hold of money, some of the people on this list used a credit card as their weapon of choice.
As you’ll see, many of them thought they had gotten away with it at first.
Craig Thomson, the 48-year-old former Federal Labor MP is currently facing 173 fraud and theft charges.
What are the charges?
Mr Thomson was accused of using his position as national secretary of the Health Services Union (HSU) and the credit cards associated with this position to pay for sexual services at a number of brothels and escort agencies in Sydney between 2002 - 2007, totalling over $5000.
Court documents alleged Mr Thomson misused his HSU credit cards to pay for over $42,800 worth of dining expenses, pornographic movies, flights, taxis, ATM cash advances and more.
At a recent preliminary hearing Mr Thomson had his bail renewed, and will appear in court on July 1.
Damian O’Carrigan didn’t carry out all or even most of his fraud using a credit card, but to deny putting him on this list is to deny you a great and terrible tale.
What did he do?
O’Carrigan lived a double life, one as an honest family man and Brisbane-based finance manager for contractor heavyweight Leightons, and another as a white-collar thief who stole as much as $20 million from his employer.
The premise was simple.
O’Carrigan established a fake front company which supposedly provided consulting services to his employer, and because he was authorised to make payments of up to $5 million on behalf of the company, he paid this false company and in the process pocketed millions of stolen funds.
Of the $20 million he pilfered, he provided one of his mistresses with a credit card on which $1.4 million over an estimated six years was spent, and this was only the tip of the iceberg.
O’Carrigan also spent $4 million on gifts for women met through ‘sugar daddy’ websites, $7 million on racehorses, $5.3 million on properties, and the remainder on charities and hobbies as diverse as fish breeding and raising German Shepherd dogs.
In April 2013 he was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
While not technically a credit card scandal, we still have to mention the Peter Slipper case.
What did he do?
Former Parliamentary Speaker Peter Slipper was charged with fraud for allegedly using Cabcharge vouchers to pay for trips to a number of wineries in the ACT during 2010.
All in all the Australian Federal Police (AFP) claim the total cost of these trips is over $1,000.
Mr Slipper pleaded not guilty and his trial will begin in December 2013.
The Romanian credit card bust
November 2012 saw a number of Romanian fraudsters and their associates, including a famous wrestling champion, arrested over their work in using 30,000 credit cards to spend approximately $30 million.
What did they do?
The Romanian criminal group hacked into the computers of some small Australian retailers and then used the credit card details they obtained to make purchases around the globe, in what was labelled the largest credit card fraud in the country’s history.
Their crimes finally caught up to them when a joint operation between the Australian Federal Police and Romanian police ended in the detaining of 16 people and the arrests and charging of seven of these people. One of those detained but not arrested was Gheorghe ‘The Carpathian Bear’ Ignat, an international wrestling champion.
The final story to tell is that of an accountant from Castle Hill who ripped off one of the biggest banks in Australia. Again, Subramaniam didn’t use a credit card to conduct her fraud, but hearing her story will teach business owners to monitor their funds closely.
What did she do?
Subramaniam was sentenced to 15 years in jail early last year for her theft of $45 million from where she worked at ING Holdings.
Over five years she used the money to pay for a diverse range of items from Michael Jackson memorabilia to pearls and vintage champagne.
She also heaped lavish gifts and gave large amounts of money to the shop assistants who helped her with her purchases. This includes giving one assistant $1.3 million to finance the purchase of a home.
Her splurging on stolen funds also included $18 million worth of properties in Bondi, Kirribilli and Sydney CBD, and over 600 jewellery items. In many cases, she never used the properties or items she bought.
Her methods were also quite simple. She often simply made direct transfers from her employer to the company she was purchasing from, or transferred money into private accounts in her maiden name.
What can we learn from this?
Companies have lost over millions of dollars, so more than ever credit card users need to be vigilant and know what their card is being used for. Regularly monitor your credit card statement and ensure your credit limit provides you with only what you need. Having a high credit limit if you don’t need it could mean a potential scammer can get access to more money.
Finally, read the Credit Card Finder fraud guide so you know how to react if you’re ever the victim of credit card scammers. This means you can enjoy the convenience of a credit card and practice safe spending.