Drug addict who stole mother's nest egg jailed

A HEROIN addict stole more than $38,000 from his mother's bank accounts and blew it on gambling and drugs.

During a seven-month period, Steven George Purcell, systematically took money from his mum's nest egg.

Purcell's mother had most of her funds deposited into a Reward Saver Account, which could be accessed through online banking.

The 66-year-old woman had obtained the money after she and her late husband sold some property and reorganised their finances.

Taking advantage of his mother's trust, Purcell accessed her online account and made 161 unauthorised withdrawals which totalled $34,262.

He also drained an additional $4336 from another of his mum's bank accounts.

At Ipswich District Court yesterday, Purcell, 39, pleaded guilty to fraud to the value of more than $30,000.

Crown prosecutor Noel Needham said Purcell had taken steps to cover up the thefts so that his mum was unaware of the money she was losing.

Mr Needham said the online transactions required one-time passwords which were sent to the mother's mobile phone as an extra security measure.

He said Purcell would use his mother's phone to confirm the transaction then delete the text message which contained the passwords.

The money was taken between December 18, 2013 to July 3, 2014.

Mr Needham said in March 2014, Purcell told his mother that he had taken some money out of her account, but promised to pay it back.

Purcell managed to deposit $10,399 back into the accounts over time, but also continued to make withdrawals.

Mr Needham said the Purcell's mum had lost a total amount of $30,715.

When she checked her Reward Saver Account in June 2014, it had less than a dollar in it.

Mr Needham said when the mother confronted her son about the missing money he told her he

had "made a few bad choices" and also gambled some of it.

Defence barrister Geoff Seaholme said those "bad choices" were his client's continuous use of drugs.

Mr Seaholme said for the past 20 years, Purcell had been a constant user of heroin.

"He did make some effort to repay the money but then the drugs got the grip of him again," Mr Seaholme said.

He said his client was a disability pensioner - as a result of his drug use and mental issues - and had a nine-year-old son who he didn't keep in contact with.

Mr Seaholme said the Ipswich man was distressed about the grief he had caused his mother and was remorseful for his actions.

He said Purcell was currently living with his mother, which showed she still had concern for him.

Before he was brought into court yesterday, Purcell had been convicted of about 71 dishonesty-related offences.

Judge Deborah Richards said general deterrence was a significant factor in sentencing.

"At the end of the day, this is serious offending in the background of a very serious criminal history for dishonesty," she said.

Purcell was convicted and sentenced to four years in jail. He will be eligible for parole after serving 18 months behind bars.

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