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Irish fraudster who blew credit card cash on limos and plush hotels in wild booze bender compared to The Hangover movie

AN Irish tourist is to be sentenced in Australia next week over offences his lawyer compared with the wild bachelor party in the comedy movie The Hangover.

Michael Hegarty (27) from Co Meath, and two younger offenders posed as children of rich parents during their credit card binge between October and December last year.

Melbourne Magistrates Court heard that before their arrest in Sydney and extradition to Melbourne in January, the group stayed at the Palazzo Versace 'I'm A Celebrity Hotel' on the Gold Coast and later the Hilton Surfers Paradise, where they ran drunk through the foyer wearing balaclavas.



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The men then travelled to top resorts Airlie Beach and Hamilton Island where they damaged a golf buggy while drunk and were escorted from the resort.

They used illegally obtained credit cards to live the high life over a six-week period, The Age newspaper reported.

Hegarty and fellow offenders Laurence Pawlaczyk (19) and Daniel Pike (20), also lived lavishly in Melbourne, including at Crown Towers, hired limousines, took Qantas flights and ate well, during the spree.

They were targetted in a special operation by the Victorian Police fraud and extortion squad, after they bought credit card numbers on an internet site for AUS$9 (€7) each.

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 (€23,600) and $35,000 (€27,000).

Pawlaczyk, Pike and Hegarty, all of no fixed address, each pleaded guilty to multiple deception related charges last Monday.

Hegarty's defence solicitor Katherine Rolfe compared the trio's extravagant spree to the wild bachelor party that is central to the plot of Todd Philips' comedy film, The Hangover.

She told the magistrate, Lance Martin, that 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".

She described him as 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" (crystal meth) habit.



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Mr Martin sentenced Pawlaczyk to 103 days in jail -- the time already served on remand -- and a 12-month community correction order that included 200 hours of unpaid work.

Hegarty and Pike will be sentenced next week.

jlast@herald.ie


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