How an Australian man milked a bank glitch for $2M and walked free
Six years ago, Luke Moore noticed something strange about his bank account.
The Australian man, then 22 years old, discovered that he could withdraw as much cash as he wanted — long after he spent all the money he had deposited. So withdraw he did.
By the time the authorities caught up with him, Moore had made off with about $2 million AUD ($1.95M Cdn).
Carol Off: Luke, how did you come to realize that you could draw out of your bank account endless sums of money?
Luke Moore: The whole story was fairly simple. All that happened was my home loan, my internet, my health insurance and things like that were automatically coming out of the everyday banking account that I used. Then, for some reason or another, my pay started going into another account but all my direct debits kept coming out of the account, even though there was no money in it.
CO: So when did it cross over from you to being able to pay some bills and to have some money to cover your expenses, when did it cross over to a lifestyle change?
LM: Oh the lifestyle change was incredible. First thing I did was go out and buy a new car. I was still living in Goulburn [Australia] at that stage. I was sort of just going out, partying and buying new clothes. Then I decided to go up for a holiday to Surfer's Paradise, the Gold Coast. I was going up there just for a weekend to see one of my friends and I ended up staying there for about the next 12 months.
CO: And then you started buying more stuff.
LM: Yeah, well after a while the direct debits got bigger and bigger through PayPal. I ended up with four cars and a seven-metre fishing boat. I had an Aston Martin DB7, which was the same car that was in one of the James Bond films. I had a Maserati. I went on two holidays to Thailand, both for about two months each. It was crazy. Like the first time I was with someone and they didn't really know what was happening or where my money was came from. They just said to me, "I've never met anyone who has spent money like you." In Thailand we were going out to the dance clubs every night.
CO: And there were strippers and drugs?
LM: Umm … yeah, well there was all sorts of things.
CO: And you were buying up celebrity memorabilia?
LM: Oh, I had heaps of celebrity memorabilia. Actually, pretty much if you can name a celebrity I had at least a picture that was signed by them. I had artworks as well. I had a couple of Picasso sketches and an Andy Warhol painting. When the police raided my house it was described as an Aladdin's cave of treasures.
CO: But did you have a feeling there was going to be a knock at the door at any moment and you'd be caught?
LM: No. The fact of the matter is I always thought that I'd receive a letter from the bank or they'd call me because they had my phone number and address. But they never sent me a letter saying, you know, your account is this much overdrawn and it's time to start paying some of the money back. That's what I thought was going to happen.
CO: So at what point did the police turn up?
LM: The 12th of December, 2012. It's a day I'll never forget. I was in the bedroom and there's a knock at the window. I pulled the curtains across and they were like, "It's the police. If you don't open the front door we're going to kick it in." I was like, "Oh no. Here it is, like, it's happened."
CO: What were you charged with?
LM: In Australia it's called fraud but what it actually is, is obtained money by deception and dealing with the proceeds of crime.
CO: A jury found you guilty and then what happened at your appeal?
LM: The court ruled that there was absolutely no evidence that a crime had even been committed. For the prosecution to prove that I had obtained money by deception they had to prove that I wasn't authorized to do what I did on the account. By looking at the terms of conditions of the account that I had in place with the bank, it clearly said that I was authorized to direct debit and overdraw your account.
CO: And the judge said it was dishonest, it was bad judgement, but it wasn't criminal.
LM: That's exactly right, yes.
CO: You did six months in jail though.
LM: Yes. If you want to get out you apply for bail and it took me six months before I got in front of a judge in the Supreme Court.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. For more on this story, listen to our full interview with Luke Moore.