Crime Files Network

Diary of a teenage eBay fraudster

Amelia Bentley

March 1, 2011

A screenshot of popular auction website
A screenshot of popular auction website

A teenage fraudster who masterminded an elaborate eBay rip-off while in year 12 at school kept a journal detailing his illegal activities.

Philip John Heggie, 19, was jailed for three years today after pleading guilty to more than 100 charges relating to an online fraud scheme he set up in 2009 while a senior at St Laurence’s College in South Brisbane.

The journal proved helpful for police who uncovered his crimes after he was found out while trying to access $5000 of $2 million erroneously deposited in one if his bogus bank accounts, Brisbane District Court heard this morning.

‘$2 million net mastermind’ to stand trial

Prosecutor Patrina Clohessy said Heggie came to the attention of police on New Year’s Eve 2009 when he went to a suburban Brisbane Suncorp branch and tried to withdraw some of the millions that had been transferred into an account operated by him.

The money had appeared in his account after a bank error and the bank teller, suspicious of Heggie’s behaviour, called police who found the account had been set up in a false name.

Detectives continued their investigations and found he had opened 119 bank accounts in bogus names linked to false PayPal and eBay accounts.

Ms Clohessy said Heggie had sold electronic goods on eBay but customers never received their purchases.

He had made almost $40,000 from the fraudulent scheme.

“It was persistent, systematic and reasonably sophisticated,” she said.

The police case against Heggie was strengthened when they discovered the journals in which he had recorded his activities in detail.

Defence barrister Ruth O’Gorman said her client had been legitimately selling goods on eBay but had accumulated debts, resulting in funds held in eBay accounts becoming frozen.

He began the fraud to get back what he believed was his, she said.

“He didn’t appreciate the level of criminality he was engaged in.”

Ms O’Gorman said that, when the $2 million appeared in one of his false accounts, it was a spur of the moment decision to try to access it.

“[He was] literally thinking all his Christmases had come at once,” she said.

She said Heggie had been bullied as a child and continued to be bullied during the 356 days he had spent in custody.

He had started trading legitimately on eBay but began opening fake accounts when he racked up debts, and his real account was frozen.

Heggie had been suffering a depressive illness at the time of the eBay swindle, and was self-medicating with drugs he had bought online, she said.

Judge Kerry O’Brien said he was concerned with the sophistication of Heggie’s fraud but said he was still a young man and had good prospects for rehabilitation.

Heggie was jailed for three years. He will be eligible for parole after 12 months.

Taking into account time spent in pre-sentence custody, Heggie will be eligible for parole sometime later this month.

– with AAP 

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