Fak­ing it

How to get money for noth­ing

Esquire (Singapore) - - Portfolio -

The greaT­esT ad­ven­Tures hap­pen when you least ex­pect them. And on 15 July 2010, Luke ‘Milky’ Moore never thought one of the great­est in re­cent mem­ory was about to start for him.

Then again, not much ever went down in Goul­burn, Aus­tralia, his sleepy home­town two hours into the bar­ren brown hills south­west of Syd­ney. Goul­burn’s big­gest claim is its road­side at­trac­tion, the Big Merino, aka Rambo: a 15m-tall con­crete ram with a pro­por­tion­ally huge and hideous scro­tum. For the 23,000 lo­cals, the main pas­time is ‘slap­ping the pok­ies’— play­ing the elec­tronic poker ma­chines that fill ev­ery pub, ke­bab shop and lawn-bowl­ing club—with the hope of win­ning big enough to leave Rambo in the dust.

But Milky, an af­fa­ble blond 23-yearold nick­named for his like­ness to the child star of the Milky­bar candy com­mer­cials (think the Aus­tralian ver­sion of Mikey from the Life ce­real ads), never counted on luck to make him rich. Though he grew up com­fort­ably—his father, Brett, was a bank ex­ec­u­tive, and his mother, An­nette, a child-care su­per­vi­sor—he’d been em­ployed since 13, bag­ging gro­ceries, mowing lawns, sell­ing in­sur­ance. He was a bright stu­dent, but he opted to forgo col­lege for work. “I al­ways thought I’d be a mil­lion­aire one day,” he says in his thick Aus­tralian ac­cent. While his mates were out drunk­enly hunt­ing wild boar, Milky was in­vest­ing in hedge funds, and at 19 he bought his own home, for him­self and his high school sweet­heart, Me­gan.

B u T T hen, in the fall of 2008, the life he’d worked so hard to achieve took a se­ries of tragic turns. It started with the stock-mar­ket crash, which de­pleted his AUD50,000 life sav­ings. With Goul­burn’s econ­omy in tur­moil, he lost his job as a fork­lift driver. A few months later, he was driv­ing in the early-morn­ing dark­ness to paint ‘Happy Birth­day’ on a boul­der near town to sur­prise Me­gan when he fell asleep at the wheel of his white Mitsubishi pickup—and drifted right into the path of an 18-wheeler, which plowed over his truck.

He awoke hang­ing out his shat­tered win­dow cov­ered in pur­ple and black paint—but, mirac­u­lously, alive. “It was in­cred­i­ble that he sur­vived,” re­calls his father. Milky had a bro­ken col­lar­bone, arm and ribs, and a rup­tured spleen—but the scars ran deeper. He fell into a crip­pling de­pres­sion, barely able to drag him­self from bed or hold on to the job his father had helped him get as a teller at his bank. Adding to the pres­sure, his mother was suf­fer­ing from a de­bil­i­tat­ing de­gen­er­a­tive back disease, some­times un­able to get out of bed her­self—leav­ing Milky to care for his year-old brother, Noah. It wasn’t long be­fore his re­la­tion­ship with Me­gan ended un­der the strain, and Milky as­sumed the blame.

By mid-2010, he was broke, alone, un­em­ployed and on the brink of fore­clo­sure. And that’s just when life sud­denly gave him the equiv­a­lent of a royal flush on the pok­ies. It hap­pened on 15 July, the day his bi­weekly mort­gage pay­ment was due. With no money in the bank, Milky was brac­ing him­self for the be­gin­ning of the end. But then some­thing strange hap­pened. The au­to­matic debit—AUD500—went from his sav­ings ac­count at his bank, St Ge­orge, into his mort­gage ac­count. Two weeks later, it hap­pened again. When he checked his balance, he could see that he had racked up the cor­re­spond­ing debt, and in­ter­est, un­der his name. Once he hit the limit, he as­sumed, the over­drafts would surely stop. But they didn’t. Fort­night af­ter fort­night, his mort­gage got paid. Think­ing this crazy, he put in a re­quest for AUD5,000 to be trans­ferred to his mort­gage ac­count. A cou­ple days later, he called his bank to check on the trans­fer—fig­ur­ing, at worst, he had reached his limit. “Did that go through?” he asked the teller, who told him ca­su­ally, “Yes, that’s all paid.” A few days af­ter that, on a lark, he called St Ge­orge and asked the bank to trans­fer AUD50,000 to his mort­gage ac­count. “I was lit­er­ally think­ing that I’ll just wing it and see if it works,” he re­calls. And sure enough, it did. The AUD50,000 deficit

was charged on his sav­ings ac­count, but the bank didn’t seem to no­tice, or, if it did, it didn’t care. It was like get­ting a free, un­lim­ited loan. “I prob­a­bly had a bit of a smile on my face then,” he says. “Not smil­ing be­cause I was think­ing I was scamming the bank, but smil­ing be­cause I was like, ‘This is my fresh start.’ ”

By the time he sold his home a year later, he’d paid down his mort­gage so much from the over­drafts that he cleared AUD150,000.

Though he’d been quiet about this so far, he fi­nally con­fided in a friend. “What do you reckon I do?” Milky asked him. What do you do, in other words, when you’re sin­gle, 24 and just got a pile of free money from the bank? No­brainer, his friend replied. “Let’s party!”

Milky was go­ing to Paradise.

Surf er S ParadiSe is the crown jewel of the Gold Coast, a pris­tine swathe of beaches along Aus­tralia’s eastern shore. It has the nightlife of Ve­gas and the ocean views of San Diego, with high-rise re­sorts lin­ing the 3.2km cres­cent shore. It’s ex­actly where you want to move if you’re a young guy with money to burn. Oh, and a cranky old red Alfa Romeo—which Milky had bought shortly be­fore mov­ing there in July 2011.

As far as his fam­ily was con­cerned, it was just the move for him to get over his ac­ci­dent, his de­pres­sion and his break-up with Me­gan, and start again. “You need to get out of Goul­burn,” his father com­pas­sion­ately said.

With AUD150,000, Milky had a big enough nest egg to live on for a long while. Book­ing him­self into a beach­side ho­tel, he soaked in the scene. For a coun­try boy—or ‘bo­gan’, Aussie slang for ‘red­neck’—who rarely left Rambo’s shadow, it re­ally was paradise.

By day, he took to the beach, body­surf­ing the warm blue waves and chat­ting up the tourists and lo­cals. By night, he cruised the bars along the palm-lined drag of Orchid Av­enue: slap­ping the pok­ies, hit­ting up the strip clubs, and danc­ing to Kylie Minogue with the end­less pa­rade of sun-kissed girls. It was, as he of­ten drawled, “beau­u­uu­ti­ful”.

In fact, it was so damn beau­u­uu­ti­ful he just couldn’t help but spend his cash. At first, it was in­no­cent enough: pick­ing up an ex­tra round of beers here, treat­ing a mate to a lap dance there.

The days and nights quickly slipped into weeks of drink­ing, danc­ing and ca­sual sex. He moved into an apart­ment with a shady ex-co­worker whom he had worked with briefly back home. When he asked to bor­row AUD20,000 for hook­ers and blow, Milky was happy to oblige. For Milky, who’d never in­dulged in ei­ther, it was too much for this bo­gan to turn away—and he, as he puts it with a sheep­ish laugh, “be­came a bit feral”.

All par­ties end even­tu­ally, though, and one morn­ing in De­cem­ber 2011, six months af­ter he moved to Surfers, Milky’s bash crashed. His ex-co­worker was gone, along with the money he’d lent him. When Milky called, the phone went to voice­mail, and then noth­ing at all. And as for the rest of the AUD150,000 that was sup­posed to last him for ages, he’d pissed it away. Even worse, this hap­pened on Christ­mas, his first away from his fam­ily. The old de­pres­sion started sink­ing in as he looked back on what he’d lost: his house, his job, Me­gan. “I’ve had a few good op­por­tu­ni­ties in my life to make some­thing of my­self,” he says, “and I’ve fucked up ev­ery sin­gle one.”

But then he re­alised he had another life­line: his St Ge­orge ac­count. Though he hadn’t used it since he had left for Surfers, it was still there. There was just one prob­lem: the over­drafts only worked for di­rect deb­its, mean­ing he couldn’t just go to an ATM and take out cash. He had to some­how get St Ge­orge to trans­fer money into another ac­count from which he could with­draw.

And that’s when it hit him: Pay­Pal. He’d al­ready been us­ing a Pay­Pal ac­count for his online pur­chases and was trans­fer­ring money between it and an ac­count he’d opened at another bank, Na­tional Aus­tralia Bank. So he winged it again, fig­ur­ing that, as al­ways, the worst St Ge­orge could say was no. He called the bank and re­quested a small trans­fer to see if it would work. As he sat anx­iously at his lap­top inside his ho­tel room, he kept hit­ting re­fresh on his browser as he checked his Pay­Pal ac­count.

Then his eyes widened. It worked— the money had gone through. He then re­quested it be sent from Pay­Pal to NAB, from which he could with­draw cash. With the money in NAB, he headed out past the tourists on Orchid Av­enue, slipped his card into an ATM near a pub, and tried tak­ing out a few hun­dred dol­lars as a test. The sec­onds af­ter his re­quest ticked in­ter­minably, as his life hung in the balance. And then, like the ul­ti­mate pokey ma­chine, the ATM be­gan spit­ting out a stack of colour­ful poly­mer ban­knotes into his hand. Holy shit, he re­alised, I can get as much money as I want.

Mil ky needed help with the Maserati. Us­ing his un­lim­ited new bankroll, he bought it on GraysOn­line, one of Aus­tralia’s big­gest auc­tion sites, for around AUD36,000. The car was sil­ver and had “like, mad cream leather”, as he puts it, and needed to be picked up in Syd­ney. His Alfa Romeo had been on the fritz lately, so in­stead of tak­ing a bus for two hours, he thought, Fuck it, I’ll just buy another car to get there: a candy-or­ange Hyundai Veloster.

Milky and a friend drove the Veloster to Syd­ney to pick up the Maserati, but not be­fore stop­ping at the strip clubs in King’s Cross, the most no­to­ri­ous red-light dis­trict in Aus­tralia. Milky was known for be­ing the gen­er­ous sort. “He’s the kind of guy who’s al­ways looking out for you,” says one of his older sis­ters, Sarah. And yet af­ter buy­ing round upon round of lap dances and drinks, he still was a bit taken aback when a beau­ti­ful dark-haired strip­per, Jes­sica, slunk up to him and asked if “you might be in­ter­ested in, like, tak­ing me home or what­ever”. For a price, that was—in­clud­ing her friend. But Milky, en­cour­aged by his buddy, was again happy to oblige. He booked the swanki­est casino suite he could find for the group.

When he and his friend woke up, there was only one thing to do: go to Thai­land. Milky bought plane tick­ets to Phuket and a suite at a lav­ish beach­side re­sort. They spent the next cou­ple weeks par­ty­ing in the streets and body­surf­ing all day. The booze, the women, the weed—they flowed as quickly and end­lessly as the cash he could take from the clos­est ATM. And when peo­ple asked how he had be­come so rich, he had just the an­swer. “I’m the Milky­bar kid,” he’d say. “I still get mad roy­al­ties!”

Yet ev­ery time he went to take out more money, his heart raced as he feared that at any mo­ment the bank would cut off his over­drafts. He kept re­as­sur­ing him­self that he wasn’t steal­ing the money, he was bor­row­ing it—and if he did get cut off, he would find a way to pay it back. “I’d blow a whole heap of money all the time,” he re­calls. “But then I’d try to save.”

While some might have put money in real es­tate or the stock mar­ket, or sim­ply buried cash in the out­back, Milky re­turned to Surfers with his own 20-some­thing’s ver­sion of

“I prob­a­bly had a bit of a smile,” Milky re­calls. “This was my

fresh start.”

an in­vest­ment plan: col­lect­ing celebrity mem­o­ra­bilia.

Back in Surfers, he’d spend the af­ter­noon surf­ing GraysOn­line on his lap­top in the pent­house apart­ment he’d rented over the pubs on Orchid Av­enue. He bought what­ever caught his fancy: a signed Michael Jor­dan jer­sey, a signed Amy Wine­house drum­head, a framed Princess Di ten­ner by Banksy. He or­dered au­to­graphed pic­tures of his favourite artists: Red Hot Chili Pep­pers, Kiss, The Rolling Stones, Michael Jack­son and Bob Dy­lan. He bought art, a cer­ti­fied Sal­vador Dalí and a few by Pro Hart, con­sid­ered the father of Aus­tralian out­back paint­ing.

Milky needed some­place to store all the stuff, and the safest place he could think of was back in Goul­burn. At first, his par­ents didn’t ques­tion the ran­dom pack­ages. “We would just sign for them and put them in his room,” says his mother. But it wasn’t just the boxes pil­ing up that be­gan to give them cause for con­cern. There was the Blue Stessl 560 Sea Hawk with an out­board mo­tor parked in the empty lot across the street, which Milky had shipped there af­ter buy­ing it online.

When­ever his par­ents would ask where he was get­ting the money, he’d tell them, “Don’t worry, it’s noth­ing il­le­gal.” Pri­vately, they strug­gled to fig­ure out what was hap­pen­ing. His father was quick to shrug it off, as­sum­ing Milky still had money from his home sale or, as he puts it, “must have won the lotto”. But his mom wasn’t so for­giv­ing. “I fig­ured he was sell­ing drugs,” she says. She be­gan search­ing his room for clues, check­ing his phone records and even his pri­vate email— which he had left open on his com­puter one day dur­ing a visit.

Milky’s par­ents weren’t the only ones given pause. There was many a morn­ing when Milky him­self would wake up in bed with, say, two strip­pers and a pile of coke, and have his own Talk­ing Heads mo­ments. How did I get here? What am I do­ing with my life? But then, as he tells it, “I’d go across the road, have lunch, have a cou­ple beers and then do it all again.” With his yel­low smi­ley-face ban­danna wrapped around his shaggy blond hair, his fat bankroll and his gen­er­ous ways, Milky be­came the Spi­coli of Surfers Paradise, the goto mate for a good time.

Shanyn Glover, who be­came his clos­est friend at the beach, re­calls him reg­u­larly treat­ing—or, in Aussie slang, ‘shout­ing’—drinks for ev­ery­one at the bar, buy­ing her girl­friend a AUD600 tat­too, and bring­ing them when he re­turned to Phuket, where he handed them AUD2,000 to go have fun. One week­end, Glover and her girl­friend went with him to a car deal­er­ship in Bris­bane, where he wrote a AUD92,000 cheque for a sil­ver As­ton Martin. He drove back, a smoke in one hand, a beer in the other, steer­ing with his knees, no shirt, no shoes, no wor­ries.

By 2 0 1 2 , two years af­ter his first over­draft, he had his money sys­tem down pat: re­quest a trans­fer from St Ge­orge to Pay­Pal, then trans­fer that money to his NAB ac­count for cash. He was tak­ing out so much that he stopped keep­ing track or check­ing the balance of his debt. But he was eas­ily in over AUD1 mil­lion. When he needed more than the AUD2,000 daily limit of cash with­drawals, he had an an­swer for that, too: tak­ing out cash at his stripjoint han­gout, whose owner would take 10 per­cent in re­turn.

Milky’s rock-star life­style be­came rou­tine. Sleep late, hit the gym, buy mem­o­ra­bilia online, slap the pok­ies, cock­tails at the strip joint, then danc­ing all night in the clubs. On the nights he didn’t pick up, he sought the ready al­ter­na­tive: the many le­gal broth­els in town. “Es­pe­cially with girls,” he says bash­fully, “you’ve got to make the most of ev­ery op­por­tu­nity, be­cause you might turn around and that’ll be gone.” One week, he threw down AUD40,000 and rented out an en­tire brothel to him­self for four days.

And so it was that, one day in

Novem­ber 2012, he barely reg­is­tered what hap­pened when he went to pay for re­pairs on his Alfa Romeo. He was stand­ing there in the car shop, hun­gover and bronzed, when he saw a mes­sage he’d never seen be­fore come up on the credit-card ma­chine. “Call bank se­cu­rity,” it read.

Milky blinked a few times, try­ing to di­gest the mo­ment he’d feared for the past two years. Fuck, he thought. Well, that’s done. He went back to his apart­ment in a daze. How could this just end? There was no old life. There was only this one and the hole he had dug for him­self. So he did the only thing he could think to do. He grabbed as many stacks of cash as he could find around his pent­house, drove to the air­port and booked the next flight to Phuket.

Her n Ame w As pim and she was beau­u­uu­ti­ful. Milky had met her dur­ing his first trip to Phuket. She was a young Thai woman who’d grown up poor on a rice farm. She barely spoke English and he couldn’t speak Thai, but they had a gen­uine con­nec­tion. One morn­ing as he lay in bed with her, he thought how easy it would be to just stay in Phuket. He could sell his cars, cash in his mem­o­ra­bilia, move here, live with Pim in a beach house, buy a bar in town, run it with her, and—well, shit, who was he kid­ding? Af­ter two years of liv­ing like James Bond, he was still the bo­gan from Goul­burn at heart. “It was that nor­mal life that I wanted,” he says. “Not the, you know, leave my whole fam­ily to go marry a bird in Thai­land and spend the rest of my life there.”

So in­stead, af­ter a cou­ple weeks in Phuket, he went back to Goul­burn. He didn’t want to mess it up for the peo­ple he’d left be­hind. “If the debt col­lec­tors came around, I didn’t want the bur­den on my par­ents,” he says. Back at their house, he packed up what he could of his mem­o­ra­bilia, then reached for a Bible on the shelf—and drove his As­ton Martin over to his friend’s. He told him he wanted him to watch the stuff for safe­keep­ing. Then he cracked open the Bible, which was hol­lowed out with AUD50,000 cash stashed inside.

Around 9:00am on 12 De­cem­ber, Milky was in his bed at his par­ents’ house, on his lap­top with his head­phones on, when he heard a pound­ing on his bed­room win­dow. He looked up to see two plain­clothes­men out­side. “Luke,” one said, “you got to open up. They’re at your front door bang­ing, and if you don’t open it, they’re gonna kick it in.” By the time Milky headed for the front door, how­ever, he saw his mother in her bathrobe al­ready there with a look he re­mem­bers as “dis­be­lief and con­fu­sion and sad­ness and anger all rolled into one”. As she re­calls: “I was just in shock.”

A group of police of­fi­cers stormed in, wav­ing a search war­rant and bran­dish­ing video cam­eras. “Luke,” one said, “we’re here to raid your house.” They told him he was be­ing charged with know­ingly deal­ing with the pro­ceeds of crime and dis­hon­estly ob­tain­ing fi­nan­cial ad­van­tage by de­cep­tion—for a to­tal take, over the past two years, of AUD2,180,583, in­clud­ing in­ter­est.

Milky had no idea how he had got­ten caught—per­haps some­one at the bank had fi­nally taken no­tice, or maybe some­one on the re­ceiv­ing end of his large pur­chases had raised con­cerns. But he still be­lieved that he had done noth­ing il­le­gal.

There was one thing he couldn’t deny: the ef­fect this was hav­ing on his mother. As the cops searched the house, all he could do was look at her, her wide eyes brim­ming with tears, the way she was grab­bing her hair and say­ing, “No, no, no” over and over again, the way her face dropped when his father called from work and heard the news. And that’s when it re­ally hit him, the real­ity of the fan­tasy he’d been liv­ing for the past two years. It had all led to this mo­ment. “The re­gret, and the re­morse, and the dev­as­ta­tion on my part,” he says. “That I’d done that, that I dis­ap­pointed them so much.” As the cold metal hand­cuffs snapped on his wrist, he leaned against his mother and whis­pered: “I’m sorry, Mum. It’ll be okay, it’s gonna be okay.”

On 1 7 A p r i l 2 0 1 5 , a Syd­ney Dis­trict Court sen­tenced Milky to four years and six months in prison af­ter he was found guilty of the charges. Not sur­pris­ingly, St Ge­orge was not forth­com­ing with de­tails as to what had hap­pened. A spokesper­son for the bank would say only, to The Sun­day Tele­graph, that the glitch had been the re­sult of a “hu­man er­ror” that had since been cor­rected. “The is­sue has been re­solved and the cus­tomer has been con­victed,” the spokesper­son went on. “The bank is now seek­ing to re­cover funds.” The police con­fis­cated Milky’s be­long­ings and turned them over to the bank. Judge Stephen Nor­rish said the 27-yearold’s ex­cuse that he was go­ing to keep spend­ing un­til the bank contacted him was “al­most laugh­able . . . he thought he could get away with any­thing and he al­most did.”

The scan­dal, which had been play­ing out in the na­tional press since his ar­rest, had wrecked Milky’s fam­ily— and cost his father his job. “At a bank, in­tegrity is a big thing,” as Brett puts it, and his mere as­so­ci­a­tion with his son was too much for his em­ployer to bear. He ended up tak­ing a de­mo­tion in rank and pay, leav­ing him out of sight in a back of­fice. An­nette, who had to be taken from the court­house in an am­bu­lance af­ter break­ing down over her son’s con­vic­tion, couldn’t for­give him, no mat­ter how much she loved him. “I didn’t care about his dip­stick ra­tio­nal­i­sa­tions,” she says. “He was dis­hon­est.” No mat­ter how much he apol­o­gised, Milky could never for­give him­self for what he’d done. “I fucked up their lives,” he says wearily. “I ab­so­lutely dev­as­tated them.”

Milky had plenty of time to pon­der this in the Goul­burn Cor­rec­tional Cen­tre. Af­ter his sen­tenc­ing, he was cuffed, strip-searched, put in his green prison jump­suit and locked in a small cell with a toi­let, a sink and an an­gry Kiwi twice his size who was in on drug charges. When his par­ents came to see him in these con­di­tions, his mother felt so over­whelmed that she col­lapsed in the vis­i­tors’ room be­fore she could even meet him. She didn’t leave her bed af­ter­ward for a month. Milky hated him­self for what he had done to land him­self here. “You’re shak­ing your head at how much life could turn around in such a short pe­riod of time,” he re­calls.

But he didn’t mope for long. From the mo­ment the bars of his cell closed, he had a mis­sion: to prove his in­no­cence and get free. Peo­ple could dis­pute the moral­ity of what he’d done, he knew, but he hadn’t de­frauded any­one. Prob­lem was, no one agreed with him: not his fam­ily, not his friends, not the other in­mates, not even his lawyers. If he was go­ing to win bail and an ap­peal, he’d have to rep­re­sent him­self in front of the New South Wales Supreme Court. Well, he thought, I’m gonna have to fig­ure it out my­self.

The chal­lenge couldn’t have been more daunt­ing: could an un­em­ployed bo­gan with a high school education take on one of the coun­try’s big­gest banks and con­vince a high judge to over­turn his con­vic­tion?

Ev­ery time he took out more money, his heart raced.

But Milky was de­ter­mined. He hit the books sent to him by le­gal aid. He read Crim­i­nal Law and Pro­ce­dure, a fat tome that taught him the ba­sics of the pro­fes­sion, and then fo­cused on cases of fraud and de­cep­tion. Af­ter a few months of re­search, he found a tiny ray of light. Ac­cord­ing to the law, he dis­cov­ered, de­cep­tion meant that he had to have caused an unau­tho­rised re­sponse from a com­puter—a charge, he knew, that couldn’t be fur­ther from the truth.

Ac­cord­ing to Milky’s con­tract with the bank, he was per­fectly au­tho­rised to re­ceive over­drafts sub­ject to the bank’s ap­proval. In prac­tice, when Milky put in an over­draft re­quest, it would get sent up from his lo­cal bank to a cor­po­rate ‘re­la­tion­ship of­fi­cer’ for sign-off. But if the of­fi­cer didn’t re­spond within a cer­tain time frame, the re­quest would au­to­mat­i­cally get ap­proved— which is what kept hap­pen­ing for him. In other words, as the bank ad­mit­ted in court, it was its own “hu­man er­ror,” and had noth­ing to do with his get­ting unau­tho­rised ac­cess to a com­puter at all. It was scape­goat­ing him for its own mis­take and his lawyers had botched the case, he fumed. “It was a long shot for the prose­cu­tion to even come af­ter me the way they did,” he says. “And I don’t think any­one in the jury un­der­stood it.”

As he pre­pared his case, he stayed up all night writ­ing out his po­si­tion in pen­cil and tap­ing the pages on the wall of his cell. By the end, he’d writ­ten 120 pages—cit­ing case upon case, lay­ing out his ar­gu­ment. Know­ing he couldn’t just read 20,000 words to the judge, he mem­o­rised them as best he could in­stead, pacing back and forth as he re­cited them over and over again. And he did it all with­out the sup­port of those dear­est to him. “We thought he was crazy,” his dad says. “There was no way he was go­ing to win.”

Fi­nally, on 6 Au­gust 2015, four months af­ter he be­gan his re­search, Milky got his shot. Dressed in his prison khakis, he stood ner­vously be­fore the video link that con­nected him to the New South Wales Supreme Court. Jus­tice Peter Hamill didn’t seem to take Milky’s chances se­ri­ously, urg­ing him to be ex­pe­di­tious. “There’s other court cases apart from yours,” he told him over the video feed.

But from the get-go, Milky sounded very much like a real lawyer. “I’m go­ing to show as a mat­ter of law what may in­volve com­plex le­gal rea­son­ing, the ap­pli­ca­tion of rel­e­vant case law, and the thor­ough and care­ful anal­y­sis of the fraud-de­fence pro­vi­sions, the con­duct I en­gaged in—the re­quest­ing of and the car­ry­ing out of the trans­fers of funds—does not come within the scope of any statu­tory or com­mon-law def­i­ni­tion of ‘de­cep­tion,’ and there­fore the fraud de­fence can­not be proven to the crim­i­nal stan­dard as re­quired by law.” Cit­ing rel­e­vant cases, he ad­mit­ted that while many might find what he had done im­moral, it was not crim­i­nal by any def­i­ni­tion. “It wasn’t a com­puter that re­sponded to my re­quest,” Milky said, “but it was staff who ac­tu­ally re­sponded and re­sulted in an ap­proval of the trans­fers.”

Fi­nally, af­ter four hours of hear­ing from Milky and the pros­e­cu­tor, Jus­tice Hamill came back af­ter a break with his de­ci­sion. “Mr Moore,” he said, “I’m grant­ing you bail.” Milky thrust his hands in the air vic­to­ri­ously, then quickly com­posed him­self and thanked the judge. Next he called home to share the in­cred­i­ble news. “I’m get­ting out!” he told his par­ents. “You’ve got to come pick us up!”

On 1 De­cem­ber 2016, the New South Wales Court of Ap­peal ruled in his favour too. “The un­usual as­pect of Mr Moore’s con­duct was that there was noth­ing covert about it,” Jus­tice Mark Leem­ing noted in his judg­ment, adding that St Ge­orge bank had chron­i­cled “with com­plete ac­cu­racy Mr Moore’s grow­ing in­debt­ed­ness”. St Ge­orge de­clined to comment on the ac­quit­tal, though it later contacted Milky to tell him it was not com­ing af­ter him for his re­main­ing debt. It was ob­vi­ously in the bank’s best in­ter­est to let this fade as quickly as pos­si­ble. As Milky left the court­house a free man, a re­porter from the tabloid TV show A Cur­rent Af­fair trailed him, cheek­ily ask­ing if he was go­ing to drive home in a Maserati. “Not today,” Milky told her with a laugh. “Not today.” On a h Ot sum­mer week­end at Surfers Paradise, Milky and I re­turn to the scene of—well, not the crime, the fan­tasy. He hasn’t been back since he left years ago and bright­ens nos­tal­gi­cally as we wan­der around his old digs. The blue skies. The end­less pow­dery white cres­cent beaches. The surfers rid­ing the wide, crash­ing waves. The young, tat­ted, tanned women, as ready to party as he is. “Beau­uu­ti­ful,” he says with a rosy grin and a sigh, tak­ing a puff of his hand-rolled cig­a­rette.

In the wake of his ac­quit­tal, Milky’s story went vi­ral online. As­ton­ish­ingly, this wasn’t an iso­lated mis­take by St Ge­orge. On 4 May 2016, a 21-yearold col­lege stu­dent in Syd­ney was ar­rested for spend­ing AUD4.6 mil­lion on de­signer hand­bags and jew­ellery af­ter get­ting her own un­lim­ited over­drafts from West­pac, a sub­sidiary of St Ge­orge. This raises the ques­tion: how many other such cases are out there, and what would oth­ers do if they had the chance? Or, as Snoop Dogg posted on Face­book, along with a link to a news­pa­per story on Milky: “What would y’all do?”

When asked what he’d do if given the chance to do it over again, Milky is am­biva­lent. “I’m not 100 per­cent sure whether I wouldn’t have done it at all,” he tells me over a beer. “Or maybe I would have stopped sooner, or maybe I would have played my cards bet­ter and buried some more of the money.” His eyes widen at the idea. “I could have ended up with AUD50 mil­lion,” he goes on, “bought a pri­vate is­land in a nonex­tra­di­tion coun­try, had brought suit­cases full of money, maids and bloody chefs and that work­ing for me the rest of my life. Moved my whole en­tire fam­ily.”

In­stead, he plans to make his for­tune the old-fash­ioned way: by work­ing, as a crim­i­nal lawyer. Af­ter suc­cess­fully rep­re­sent­ing him­self in his case, he found his call­ing. He’s cur­rently en­rolled in law school and ex­pects to get his de­gree this spring. And what will he do if he ends up mak­ing mil­lions again? “I reckon I’ll have to move back here,” he says with a smile, which would be the most beau­u­uu­ti­ful end­ing of all.

“We thought he was crazy,” his dad says. “There was no way he was go­ing to win.”

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