A man who went on a series of spending sprees at Warrawong Bunnings using trade cards that didn't belong to him has been released from jail, after circumstance saw him spend almost four months inside.
A Warrawong plumbing business and a travel agency were left to foot bills racked up by Aaron John Clarkson and two friends who visited the Warrawong hardware giant five times between April 4 and April 11.
The trio walked away with a home security system, a garden hose and reel, a drill set, power tools, fire extinguisher, a solar lantern, an insect zapper and other goods.
Bunnings' payroll services began an internal investigation after American Express flagged a fraudulent transaction worth $995 at the Warrwong store on April 4.
Clarkson returned the the store twice on April 7, collecting goods worth $594 and $643 at at time.
The 37-year-old made back-to-back visits again on April 11, this time spending $321 and $1053. In all, Clarkson's fraudulent transactions totalled $3605.71.
It wasn't a sophisticated operation; he was caught in full view of CCTV and some of the property was recovered.
A warrant had been issued for his arrest on February 25 when he failed to front court for unrelated matters.
Bunnings reported the fraud on April 11 and investigating police recognised Clarkson's face as they reviewed the store's CCTV footage.
Police were outside the store the afternoon of April 14 when they spotted Clarkson getting inside a Holden with a woman at the wheel. They followed the car to a Cringila home, where they arrested Clarkson and searched the home, finding several of the fraudulently obtained items on the property.
In Wollongong Local Court on Monday, defence solicitor Matt Ward said Clarkson had been in debt and grappling with a drug issue when he committed the crimes.
"It wasn't a sophisticated operation; he was caught in full view of CCTV and some of the property was recovered," he said.
The court heard Clarkson had spent three months and 20 days in prison on unrelated charges, only for those charges to have been dropped.
Magistrate Mark Douglass placed Clarkson on a community corrections order for the fraud, meaning he was released from prison later Monday.
"Shoplifting costs the state of NSW many hundreds of millions of dollars, not just in losses but also in loss prevention."
"Unusually, in this particular matter the other matters have gone by the wayside. That means he's already served a jail term for what were his first offences of dishonesty. For that reason, the court will place him on a community corrections order for a period of nine months."
The court will determine compensation at a later date.
We depend on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe here. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support.