Real estate agent's $8k secret spend on girlfriend's card
A REAL estate agent who used his girlfriend's credit card 57 times, racking up more than $8000 in bills without her knowledge, has escaped a jail sentence.
Nigel Ian Baker pleaded guilty in Maroochydore Magistrates Court yesterday to 57 counts of fraud, after acquiring his then-girl- friend's credit card details and using them to purchase goods over a four-month period.
The 36-year-old Sunshine Coast man spent a total of $8250.
The woman said she didn't know Baker had her card details, and only noticed the fraud when she realised her credit card bill was too high and checked her transaction history.
Defence lawyer Anna Smith said Baker immediately offered to pay the woman back, and repaid most of the total before the fraud charges were laid.
Baker's family helped him pay back the money, the last of which was handed to the prosecutor as a cheque during yesterday's sentencing after his lawyer clarified the final amount.
Ms Smith said Baker was having financial difficulties during the offending, and the fraud was not motivated by greed.
"He accepts that he was dishonest," Ms Smith said.
"The charges have come at the breakup of the relationship."
Magistrate Haydn Stjernqvist called the offences a "breach of trust" and said it was easier than ever for offenders to use victims' credit cards without their permission.
"We really need to make sure the people who do this understand the consequences that follow," Mr Stjernqvist said.
The police prosecutor asked Mr Stjernqvist to impose a suspended jail sentence, while Ms Smith said a community service and probation order or fine would be sufficient.
Ms Smith asked Mr Stjernqvist not to record a conviction, as it would severely limit his career and make obtaining a real estate licence difficult.
She said as the offence took place in a "personal setting", it was not relevant to his career.
Mr Stjernqvist acknowledged Baker's early guilty plea, efforts to repay the money and his limited criminal history.
He sentenced Baker to 180 hours of community service to be served within a year, and imposed a two-year probation period with no conviction recorded.