The bank lent me $2m so I spent it on strippers and cars
14 December 2016
- From the sectionMagazine
Luke Brett Moore, a young Australian, had just lost his job when he discovered his bank was mistakenly allowing him unlimited credit. It was too good an opportunity to miss. As he explains here, in his own words, he started spending and didn’t stop – until one day there was a knock on the door.
It seems unbelievable but my intention was never to take all the money from the St George Bank and not pay it back.
I was essentially waiting for the bank to contact me and say: “Hey you, I want this amount of money” and I would have gone from there.
Originally, in 2010, I just had a normal everyday banking account. My home loan, my health insurance and bills were coming out of it.
I had had a pretty bad car accident and my pay started going into another bank. I can’t remember the exact circumstances of why that happened.
The first week I was worried as there was no money to pay the mortgage. What was I going to do? But then the payment went through from my St George account and I thought, “Oh, OK.”
And then the next fortnight the next $500 (£296) payment of my mortgage went through. It went on and on like that for 12 months without the bank saying anything, but my account was becoming overdrawn
- Listen to Luke Brett Moore’s interview on Outlook, on the BBC World Service
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About that time I rang my home loan company and said, “Hey, can you direct-debit $5,000 (£3,000) from my St George account?” And then a couple of days later I said $50,000. They were both approved.
I was shocked. I had found myself with access to an extraordinary large line of credit.
I bought my first car not long afterwards – an Alfa Romeo 156. It was the dodgiest car: the gearbox, motor and fuel injectors all went in it.
Then I got a Hyundai Veloster. It was one of those crazy three-door things with a glass roof. I bought that so I could drive to Sydney to buy a Maserati. It was only a $36,000 car. I mean it was a lovely car but it wasn’t a supercar by today’s standards.
It was a crazy time for me. I was a young and foolish 22-year-old and I wasn’t thinking particularly clearly.
I had just recovered from the accident and found myself unemployed for the first time since I was 14. I had broken up with my high school sweetheart after four years and I was looking to sort of start my life fresh somewhere else.
So I moved to Gold Coast. I flew up to Surfer’s Paradise one weekend for a holiday. And I got comfortable there and ending up staying.
It was pretty awesome. I had a good time up there that’s for sure. I was just doing what most young guys do when they’re that age and they’ve got a bucket load of cash – just having fun and partying.
I went to strip clubs and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on girls, alcohol, cocaine and whatever else.
I also got a fishing boat. I loved that. I got a £10 note by street artist Banksy. That was one of my treasured possessions, along with a drum skin signed by Amy Winehouse.
Every time I requested St George to lend me more money I wasn’t particularly expecting them to, but they did.
I think at first maybe my mother thought I was dealing drugs but then I think it become quite clear that that’s not what I was doing. People learned fairly quickly around me, “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”
I had a business up in Surfer’s Paradise. I was running a shop selling goods. The media said my bedroom was an Aladdin’s cave of treasures, but a lot of that stuff I was selling in my shop. There was to some extent a business idea behind everything that I was doing.
The fall and rise of Luke Brett Moore
- March 2010: Opens an account with St George Bank
- July 2010 to August 2012: Makes more than 50 withdrawals, apparently totalling $1,988,535.25
- December 2012: Police raid Moore’s family home in Goulburn, New South Wales, but he is released on bail
- February 2015: Found guilty of obtaining financial benefit by deception and dealing with the proceeds of crime in Sydney District Court
- April 2015: Sentenced to between two years and three months and four years and six months in jail
- August 2015: Bail is granted after Moore represents himself in court
- December 2016: New South Wales Criminal Court of Appeal quashes his conviction
Then [in 2012] I was sitting in my bedroom back at home with my mum in Goulburn when I hear banging on the window. By the time I got to the front door the police were inside. They pretty much had my mother pushed up against a wall and were shoving a video camera in my face. They were all armed like they thought I might be a mad gangster.
They were yelling and telling me I was under arrest and they went through the house and took everything that I’d ever owned.
They arrested me and took me to the police station. The police originally refused me bail so I spent the night in the Goulburn cells. The next day I got granted bail by a magistrate in court.
A couple of years later I was found guilty of obtaining financial advantage by deception and knowingly dealing with the proceeds of crime. I was sentenced for a maximum of four-and-a-half years.
I was never expecting to go to jail and thought I’d be found innocent. But I had to get lawyers through legal aid, which is grossly underfunded in Australia. They weren’t interested in the case, didn’t want to defend the case and clearly didn’t do a very good job of it at trial.
It was horrible in jail. You’re away from your family and locked in a cell for 17 hours a day. The food is pretty dodgy and you’re associating with some pretty rough people.
In some ways I was blessed because the type of crime I was in there for was not something that anyone in prison is going to hold against you.
I spent six months there, and it was the toughest time in my life. From the first day I was there I was trying to get out.
I read as many law books as I could and about as many cases as I could. I read the Bail Act and the Crimes Act and pieced together my case.
My first objective, though, was to get bail. This was very difficult at the time  following too many cases of guys on bail committing really bad crimes.
You needed to first establish special and exceptional circumstances and then you needed to establish that you weren’t a risk to the community and that you weren’t a flight risk.
I had to represent myself because legal aid wouldn’t fund my bail application. But I managed to get it.
By the time it all went to court I was so prepared with all my arguments and everything all I basically did was give the barrister that represented me my paperwork and said: “Look, here it is. Here’s the argument. It’s black and white.”
In the end the legal argument as far as the criminal charges were concerned was quite simple.
I was acquitted a few weeks ago. As far as the law is concerned in Australia at the moment I had no legal obligation to inform the Bank of what was going on.
The judge said I was dishonest, but we don’t live in a society where moral wrongs result in people being locked up behind bars and their liberty taken away from them.
I was just unlucky I guess that it happened to me.
From all the comments on social media it seems that many other young and foolish people would’ve done the exact same thing. However, given the opportunity, I wouldn’t do it again. It devastated my life and family and it wasn’t worth a couple of good months with the strippers and some cocaine.
My whole life was nearly ruined. It’s only now that I’ve been able to turn my experience in to a positive. I’m currently studying law at university and will be a criminal lawyer in two years’ time.
My six months behind bars gave me a unique perspective on jail. A lot of the people in there need help not incarceration.
So my idea is to essentially assist these people and sort of try to get more funding directed towards drug rehabilitation, counselling and education as opposed to more money to build more jails.