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Philip Heggie's $2 million fraud charge - Australia

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  • Philip Heggie's $2 million fraud charge - Australia

    Philip Heggie's $2 million fraud charge

    Article from:
    Kay Dibben
    January 03, 2010 12:00am

    AN 18-year-old Brisbane student has been charged with defrauding Queensland's biggest bank of $2 million in a case that has set off alarm bells about online banking security.
    Philip Heggie, who is enrolled to study business at University of Queensland, appeared in Brisbane Magistrates Court on New Year's Day charged with fraud and attempted fraud. The alleged offences involved online banking and false identification.
    The money was allegedly transferred from an internal account where Suncorp holds a large percentage of the bank's own money.
    Just two days before the teenager's arrest, Suncorp general manager Terry Wasmund was praising the bank's award-winning internet banking scheme.
    Mr Wasmund said that after online security attacks in the mid-1990s, security measures had improved and Queenslanders had embraced online services. The bank was recently awarded best Australian-based transactional web and mobile service.
    A Suncorp spokesman yesterday said the bank would review its systems and procedures and continue to assist police.
    Heggie, of Eight Mile Plains, was arrested last Thursday after he allegedly tried to withdraw $5000 from the $2 million account at Suncorp's Garden City branch.
    A detective said in a statement tendered in court that a teller had reacted to "a gut feeling" and police were then contacted.
    After a night in custody, Heggie made his first appearance in court, unshaven but dressed smartly in a long-sleeved, collared dark shirt and pants. He sat quietly in the dock, watched by his father.
    An unknown Suncorp staff member is believed by police to have processed the $2 million transfer from the internal account into an account Heggie allegedly set up under the false name of Shane Seato.
    According to documents tendered to the court, about the time he tried to withdraw the $5000, Heggie sent a mobile phone text message to an unknown person saying: "Best day of the next 20 years of my life. If all goes well, drinks are on me tonight".
    Six weeks earlier, Heggie had been cautioned, but not charged, by police after Customs intercepted false identifications addressed to the student, the court was told.
    At the time, Heggie allegedly claimed he obtained the false IDs from an offshore website and they were to be sold to friends before Schoolies, according to the police documents.
    Police prosecutor Senior Sergeant Mark Gorton opposed bail, tendering a statement by an Upper Mt Gravatt CIB investigating officer, outlining how the fraud allegedly unfolded.
    On December 17, identification in the name of Shane Seato was used to verify opening of a Suncorp-Metway account at an Australia Post outlet at Pinelands shopping centre.
    On December 21, eight accounts were opened by internet on the bank's website.
    On Christmas Eve, an internal journal was allegedly created to debit a Suncorp business banking term deposit account and credit one of Seato's accounts.
    "An unknown person at Suncorp sent a request to process the journal, debit Suncorp's own account and credit Seato's account," the detective's statement said.
    At 4.40pm that day, $2 million was allegedly transferred into the Seato account from the internal Suncorp account in which the bank held a large percentage of its own money, the detective said.
    At 1.32pm on New Year's Eve, Seato registered over the phone for internet banking, was assigned an internet customer ID number and chose a password.
    Seato then allegedly transferred by internet $2 million from a sub-account into his main account, which could be accessed at a bank branch.
    At 2pm Heggie allegedly went to the suburban branch, handed over a NSW driver's licence in the name of Seato and asked to withdraw $5000.
    Police allegedly found Heggie with extra ID in the name of Shane Seato.
    According to the documents, police allegedly found banking documents in his home bedroom with a false name, birth date and address, fake Shane Seato ID, with Heggie's photo and more than 20 blank credit, debit and ATM cards with magnetic strips.

    Defence solicitor Peter Russo said the only way the money could have got into Heggie's account was if someone in Suncorp authorised the transfer. It was unknown how this occurred.
    He said police could either allege that Heggie had a co-offender who was yet to be caught, or he could be seen as a "foolish young man" who ended up with money in an account he had tried to access.
    "He needs to have his wings clipped," Magistrate Pam Dowse said before releasing Heggie on bail, with a full-time curfew condition that he not leave his family home, unless accompanied by his father.
    She also banned Heggie from accessing the internet. Heggie, who was not required to enter a plea, will reappear in court on February 22.
    "There's one way to find out if a man is honest-ask him. If he says 'yes,' you know he is a crook." Groucho Marx