Gympie region fraudster spends up after pub find
Downsfield man Craig Ian Jones was at the Empire Hotel in Mary Street on a late January evening when he came across a red wallet on the ground.
Instead of turning it in, the 49-year-old used the debit card inside to go on a $463 spending spree of booze, tobacco and groceries at Gympie shopping centres, which ultimately ended in court.
Jones pleaded guilty to seven counts of fraud in Gympie Magistrates Court on Tuesday; the charges formed the bulk of a wider plea which also included charges of unlawful use of a motor vehicle and attempt to enter premises on other separate occasions.
The court heard that 16 minutes after Jones was caught on CCTV footage at the Empire Hotel he used the card at Coles to buy tobacco.
One minute later he went back into the store and bought Optus phone items.
Fifteen minutes after that he returned to Coles to buy more tobacco, a 600ml bottle of Coca Cola, Tally Ho papers and filters.
He visited Liquorworld at Gympie Central shopping centre twice within five minutes, first to buy VB stubbies and a bottle of Jack Daniels Black and then a pack of Jim Beam on his return trip.
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Later that night he made a trip to Drakes supermarket where he first used the card to buy groceries at 9.19pm, and then returned two minutes later to purchase more groceries.
The fraudulent spending spree came 10 months after he stole a battered ute from a tenant; the court heard multiple witnesses saw the vehicle driving along Sandy Creek Rd on the afternoon of March 24, 2020.
Jones initially told police the victim owed him rent but denied taking the ute.
The diesel-powered vehicle was returned with unleaded petrol in the system, damaging the engine.
Jones did not have a licence at the time.
Five days after his debit-card spree, on February 3, 2021, Jones was caught on CCTV trying to break into a law firm just before midnight.
The court heard he made several attempts to open the rear door before redirecting a nearby CCTV camera to point at the building’s roof instead of the back of the building and trying once more.
Lawyer Chris Anderson told the court Jones had started using meth later in life following two serious accidents, first fracturing his skull in 47 places following a 12m fall at work and then, 12 years later, suffering more head injuries as a passenger in a car crash.
He received a payout as a result of his injuries, Mr Anderson said, but this money was now gone and he was on the disability support pension.
Magistrate Graham Hillan handed Jones a nine month jail sentence, with a parole release date of 21 June.
He also ordered him to pay $400 restitution, and disqualified him from driving for two-and-a-half years, warning him if he got behind the wheel during that period “the consequences will be severe”.