A MALAYSIAN man caught using a fake credit card who was then deported after it was found he had lived illegally in Australia for three years returned four months later under a false name to resume working for a crime syndicate's multimillion-dollar fraud operation.
A court yesterday heard Lian Yew Steven Kee, 36, was an "integral" part of the Malaysian-based syndicate whose members took "shoppers" on daily trips across Melbourne that targeted major retail chains.
The annual illegal purchases included at least $5 million in store gift cards from Myer, Woolworths and Coles
The Melbourne Magistrates Court was told a joint federal and Victoria Police investigation found blank cards, similar to those of Australian financial institutions, were produced in Malaysia and imported. Prosecutor Sarah Flinn said the cards were then embossed and encoded with details stolen from banking customers.
Ms Flinn said a month after Kee — then Liang Yaw Kee — was seen on May 19 last year making $795 purchases at Coles in Docklands, he was deported as an unlawful non-citizen. But she said after he changed his name in Malaysia, got a new passport and was granted an Australian student visa, he returned in October.
Federal police arrested him last month in Springvale South and found 43 fake cards, a credit card reader and the addresses of shopping centres and retails stores in his rented room.
Kee pleaded guilty to four charges, including two of dishonestly obtaining or dealing in personal financial information and one of possessing a false document.
Defence lawyer Andrew Sim said Kee, who spoke no English and had no family in Australia, had no prior convictions and was at the lower end of the syndicate.
But magistrate Gerard Lethbridge told Kee he was "integral" to the syndicate and that the community needed protection "from people like you who come to this country and use these sophisticated methods to steal very, very substantial amounts of property and money".
Kee was jailed by magistrate Gerard Lethbridge for seven months.