Fraudster jailed for six months

Fraudster jailed for six months

A man who cheated unsuspecting businesses and individuals around the country out of thousands of dollars to fuel his gambling addiction has been jailed.

Michael James Walsh, 39, of Young was sentenced to six months’ prison for 16 counts of fraud at Young Local Court on Tuesday.

Local magistrate Peter Dare SC read the court the details of the offences which occurred between June 2011 and August 2013. 

His charges came about through a 15 month police investigation.

To scam his victims out of money, Walsh would buy a pre-paid SIM card and register it under a fictitious name.

He would then conduct searches of the internet of townships across Australia for small businesses such as bakeries, coffee shops, butchers and hotels.

He would tell them he had electrical, phone and computer goods for sale at greatly reduced prices from a relative’s business that was liquidating.

When buyers agreed to purchase, he asked them to put a deposit into one of his 14 bank accounts by a certain time - usually within the hour. 

He would then go to an ATM and withdraw the funds.

The goods would never be delivered and he would dispose of the SIM card.

At one point, during an offence on August 5, 2013, he attempted to withdraw funds from a Young ATM after convincing a woman in Robina, Queensland to purchase a laptop. 

The transaction was declined and he phoned the Robina branch of the Wide Bay Bank where he was informed that his account was frozen due to a police investigation.

He then contacted Goulburn police station in an attempt to speak to the officer in charge but was unable to.

With what Mr Dare described as “breathtaking audacity”, Walsh contacted the bank and pretended to be a fictitious detective, Troy Miller from Surry Hills police station.

He told the teller that the investigation had been “sorted out” and that he authorised the release of the funds in the frozen account.

The teller recognised the voice of the offender as the caller who had initially phoned the branch to enquire about the account and the offender hung up.

The court heard that at the time of the offences, Walsh had been actively avoiding police and was wanted on 12 outstanding arrest warrants in NSW, Queensland and the ACT - all fraud matters. 

He was tracked down in Young through use of electronic surveillance.

He was subsequently charged and sentenced to prison at Wagga Local Court for other fraud offences, released on August 14.

Walsh’s solicitor Duc Vo told the court he suffered from serious mental health issues which were not being addressed at the time of offending.

He said he was now in counselling and confronting his problem gambling.

He said the death of his only child 14 years ago was still “lingering on” and was a contributing factor to his offending.

He asked Mr Dare to consider no further prison sentence, that the 12-month sentence he finished serving in August for fraud charges was a sufficient punishment. 

Mr Dare said he wasn’t convinced his recent progress had been in place long enough to indicate he had undergone a “Pauline or Damascene conversion”.  

“I am sure that his gambling addiction and associated problems have been outlined before every court before which he has ever appeared over the years,” he said.

Mr Dare found no other penalty than imprisonment was appropriate, sentencing him to six months’ prison.