Teen steals card for shop­ping spree

Townsville Bulletin - - News - by Roanne John­son roanne. john­son@ townsville­bul­letin. com. au

A RE­CEP­TION­IST who went on an on­line spend­ing spree with her mother’s credit card de­tails has avoided jail but will have to re­pay her debt of al­most $ 18,000.

Kiearna Marie Cooper, 19, pleaded guilty yes­ter­day to one count of fraud in the Townsville District Court be­tween Au­gust 31, 2009 and Fe­bru­ary 18, 2010.

Crown pros­e­cu­tor Clare Kelsey said the de­fen­dant, who wept openly in the dock, did not use the money for ‘‘ ex­treme fi­nan­cial needs’’ but to pay ev­ery­day bills, fund per­sonal en­ter­tain­ment and travel.

Ms Kelsey said Cooper was ini­tially given the West­pac Bank­ing Cor­po­ra­tion credit card de­tails by her mother when she was 17 years old, to se­cure a mo­bile phone con­tract.

‘‘ Over a six-month pe­riod she took ad­van­tage of her par­ents’ gen­eros­ity . . . and con­vinced the bank to in­crease the credit limit,’’ she said.

Ms Kelsey said Cooper also changed the billing ad­dress to con­ceal her fraud­u­lent be­hav­iour so she would re­ceive the credit card bill for the amount of $ 17,945.21.

‘‘ It was a fraud that was highly un­so­phis­ti­cated in na­ture in the sense that . . . she was al­ways go­ing to be found out,’’ the pros­e­cu­tor said.

Ms Kelsey added that Cooper ini­tially showed re­morse when con­fronted by her par­ents and the bank man­ager, how­ever when she re­fused to a loan ar­range­ment the sit­u­a­tion de­te­ri­o­rated.

De­fence bar­ris­ter Greg Lyn­ham said his client’s par­ents’ deal with t heir daugh­ter in­cluded that she must split up wit h her boyfriend, an ap­pren­tice elec­tri­cian, and re­turn home. Mr Lyn­ham said when the teenager re­fused to those con­di­tions she was re­ported to the po­lice.

‘‘ This is a tragic case, as she de­clined the of­fer and sadly her par­ents took that step,’’ Mr Lyn­ham said.

‘‘ Now the sit­u­a­tion has de­te­ri­o­rated to the point where they are no longer talk­ing to each other.’’

Mr Lyn­ham said it had ‘‘torn the fam­ily fab­ric apart’’.

When sen­tenc­ing Cooper, Judge Stu­art Dur­ward SC said the of­fence was se­ri­ous but out of char­ac­ter for the teenager who had a clean crim­i­nal record.

The judge con­ceded the sit­u­a­tion was very up­set­ting for Cooper who no longer had the sup­port of her fam­ily.

‘‘ It is quite sad . . . the fam­ily unit has bro­ken down that’s a shame and no doubt has an ef­fect on you,’’ he said. ‘‘ How­ever it was fool­ish ( be­hav­iour) fu­elled by your lack of so­phis­ti­ca­tion and youth as a 17 and 18-yearold.’’

Cooper, who faced a max­i­mum five years jail, was sen­tenced to 80 hours com­mu­nity ser­vice and 12 months pro­ba­tion.

No con­vic­tion was re-corded but a resti­tu­tion or­der to re­pay the debt was or­dered by Judge Dur­ward.

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