A CONVICTED fraudster and ringleader of a massive internet scam has found himself in deep water again after racking up an £8,000 bill on a cruise – despite only having £200 in his bank account.
David Levi, 36, from Ansdell, was jailed for being the mastermind behind a global con which duped 300 customers of online auction site eBay out of an estimated £300,000 in 2005.
But it seems he hasn’t learnt his lesson and was back in court after embarking on an “extravagant course of spending” – buying casino chips, a £900 watch, cameras and clothes during a 36-day Caribbean cruise.
Levi, who earns money through car boot sales, lived the high life as P&O’s Oriana toured islands including Aruba, St Lucia and Antigua but was shocked to discover police officers waiting for him when the ship returned to Southampton in February 2010.
Today, Levi, who has previous offences for fraud, dishonesty, perverting the course of justice and conspiring to supply drugs, told The Gazette he blamed P&O for allowing him to spend more cash than he had in his account.
He said: “Even though I pleaded guilty, it wasn’t because I set out to defraud them, I just couldn’t be bothered with the aggravation I would have got.
“It’s P&O’s payment system that is a joke.”
Philip Warren, prosecuting at Bournemouth Crown Court, said Levi initially deposited £500 in cash to obtain a ship credit card, then registered a debit card when the cash ran out.
Ship staff realised there was not enough cash in his bank account within days and stopped the ship card but it was reinstated in error and the spending spree began.
Levi spent more than £600 at a time on casino chips and purchases included a TAG Heuer watch, a £500 laptop and more than £200 of clothes.
The former convict, of Ansdell Road, admitted seven charges of fraud, with a value of £3,368 but the court heard a total of £8,000 was spent.
Levi claims he did not intentionally defraud the cruise firm.
The former Lytham St Annes High School pupil added: “When you pay for something on the ship card, the following day, after the transaction, they seek to get authorisation from your registered debit or credit card.
“If you’ve got the money in your account they authorise it but don’t take the money out.
“If you carry out another transaction they seek authorisation for that amount instead of the total from all the transactions.
“It’s a silly system. I was expecting £10,000 to be deposited in my account from my uncle in Israel, I thought the money had gone in which is why I kept spending.
“I wouldn’t have spent it if I’d known the money hadn’t been there.”
Levi walked free after the judge considered sentencing guidelines, which may have taken into account his guilty plea and whether he set out to defraud the cruise company from the outset.
Sentencing Levi to a 12-month community order, including 200 hours unpaid work, Judge Samuel Wiggs said: “I would very much have liked to send you to prison. I am, however, bound by the guidelines.”
None of the money has been paid back to P&O owners Carnival Cruises.
The defendant added: “I would pay the money back (to P&O). If I don’t I will be blacklisted for cruising. It is money I owe them.”
Levi was one of six men to be convicted in 2005 after police uncovered an eBay gang were defrauding customers.
The group used fake emails to obtain confidential information from genuine traders online.
They then made slight changes to those details that allowed them to advertise expensive items such as laptops and Rolex watches.
The victims were asked to transfer money into the gang’s account but the goods were never delivered.
The Sentencing Council said judges should follow guidelines, unless they feel the sentence range is inadequate for the crime.
A spokesman said: “Sentencing guidelines should be followed, unless a judge feels it is not in the interests of justice to do so.
“If a judge believes the suggested sentence range in the guideline does not reflect the seriousness of an offence, he or she can sentence above that range.”
P&O Cruises declined to comment.