Lotto cheque fraudster jailed for six years

A fraudster who used stolen cheques to defraud lotto receivers has been jailed for six years

32-year old Matthew Camilleri from Gzira, was investigated by the police in connection with a scam targeting lotto receivers.

The court heard Police Inspectors Joseph Busuttil and Saviour Baldacchino explain how the accused would visit different lotto outlets, request a ticket and delay payment for a few minutes, in the knowledge that after around five minutes, the lotto ticket could not be cancelled from the system.

He would then come up with an excuse for not paying in cash, offering to pay by cheque instead. Being unable to cancel the ticket, the ticket seller would have had little option but to accept. 

Camilleri would use cheques stolen from an office in 2012.

The court was told that he had refined his technique over time, keeping his cheque book hidden until the ticket was issued.

On one occasion, when the lotto receiver had refused the cheque, Camilleri had promised to return with the cash, but never did.

The man’s repeated actions eventually led to all lotto receivers being sent an email with a photo of Camilleri, warning all lotto receivers to be on their guard.

He was also accused of stealing a laptop, a generator, two TV sets, two printers and a keyboard, from the Mosta office where he had also stolen the chequebook.

The suspect was charged with theft, wilful damage to third party property, fraud, falsification of documents, knowingly making use of forged cheques, illegally dumping the stolen items at sea and a number of other offences linked to his arrest. 

The man was also accused of being a recidivist.

However, a lack of forensic evidence linking the accused to the Mosta theft and an inadmissible statement to the police, released without a lawyer present, led to him being acquitted of the theft. The use of the stolen cheques did not automatically mean that the accused had committed the theft, the court observed.

On the charges of fraud, the court noted that the accused had tried to avoid raising suspicion by going to different lotto outlets, putting a false ID number and telephone number on the cheque in a bid to be more convincing.

However, the man’s identity was ultimately confirmed by CCTV footage, the court observed, finding Camilleri guilty of fraud and recidivism whilst clearing him of theft and offences against the arresting officers.

Magistrate Joe Mifsud noted that the accused had a serious drug problem which had persisted through various attempts at rehabilitation.

The court could not ignore the fact that the man had been given a number of opportunities to reform but had frittered them away, Magistrate Mifsud said.

Society deserved protection from persons like the accused, who was resisting its efforts to help him, as shown by his lengthy criminal record, ruled the court, jailing him for six years.

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