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Tuesday 20 March 2018

Irish tourist who went on Hangover movie style crime spree escapes jail term

Michael Hegarty
Michael Hegarty
Hollywood actors Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis and Ed Helms in a scene from The Hangover
Hegarty and his companions splurged on suites at Melbourne's Crown Towers and Palazzo Versace on the Gold Coast, among others

AN IRISH tourist used illegally obtained credit card numbers to live in luxury during a six-week crime spree in Australia that has been compared by his lawyer with the wild bachelor party in the comedy film The Hangover.

Meath man Michael Hegarty, 27, and two younger offenders posed as children of rich parents during their binge on credit cards between October and December last year.

They were arrested in Sydney in January after staying in five star hotels, hiring limousines, holidaying, golfing and dining in gourmet restaurants.

He was ordered to attend a correctional centre and do unpaid community work in Melbourne and his 90 day prison sentence was suspended for a year. In that time he must perform 150 hours of community service.

At the Melbourne Magistrates Court, Hegarty was forbidden from speaking to his younger associates Leonard Pawalczykie (19) or Daniel Pike (20) for 12 months, the Irish Echo newspaper reported.

Hegarty and his associates were targeted in a special operation by the Victorian Police fraud and extortion squad, after they bought credit card numbers on an internet site for $9 each.

The team uncovered that the trio had defrauded a sum of between $30,000 and $35,000, between October and December 2011

Melbourne Magistrates Court heard last week that they had lived lavishly in Melbourne, including at Crown Towers, hired limousines, took Qantas flights and ate well.

Leading Senior Constable Roy Brandi told the court the men first tested the cards' viability by making donations to the Red Cross before they defrauded between $30,000 and $35,000, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Hegarty's defence solicitor, Katherine Rolfe, told the magistrate, Lance Martin, she did not want to ''make light of the situation, but you may be familiar with the film The Hangover''.

''Well,'' Ms Rolfe said, ''this is the case of The Hangover gone wrong, and Mr Hegarty has borne the brunt of that.''

She said that Hegarty's co-defendants and police agreed he was the ''weakest link'', a naive older man whom Pawlaczyk admitted they corrupted and ''socially engineered''.

Jacqui Hession, for Pawlaczyk, said her client had a background of drug and alcohol abuse, and mixing with the wrong associates, which led to frequent offending.

Pike's lawyer, Nadia Morales, said her client met Pawlaczyk in custody in Tasmania and had similar substance-abuse issues including an ''ice'' habit.

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