Facebook scammer sold non-existent PlayStations, Xboxs

The teacher exchanged explicit messages and photos with a teenage girl. File photo: Getty Images
File photo: Getty Images
A man set up a fake Facebook account to sell a PlayStation and Xbox he never owned, which eventually saw him bank thousands of dollars.

Daniel Paul Johnstone also racked up $1205 of petrol on his employer’s petrol card and stole a weed eater and battery worth $2500.

Johnstone, of Te Awamutu, was last week sentenced to five months’ home detention on numerous charges by Judge Denise Clark in the Hamilton District Court.

His victims were still out of pocket by $6545, which Johnstone was ordered to pay back at $20 per week - something that would take about six years.

The 34-year-old’s offending was all in the same vein; he used the same fake Facebook profile under the name, Daniel Jay, and offered either an Xbox or a Playstation for sale for varying amounts between $650 and $1000.

The first victim lived in Wānaka and agreed to buy a PlayStation 5 for $650 and sent him half the payment. Johnstone then told him he needed the full amount before he would send the product.

He eventually severed contact.

The next victim, from Christchurch, lost $375 after agreeing to buy an Xbox for $750 after arranging to meet him at a Tauiwi St property.

Another victim was left $750 out of pocket after paying the whole $750 for a Playstation which Johnstone said would be delivered to his house. It never arrived.

The next victim, who lived in Hamilton, paid Johnstone $1000 for a PlayStation 5, while a person in New Plymouth lost $750 after paying him $750, and another person in Taranaki lost $800 after paying for a Playstation that he never received.

In January last year, Johnstone used his employer’s company fuel card multiple times throughout the Waikato, spending $1205.

And on January 30, he went to Parklands Turf outside of work hours and, using his work key to gain entry, stole a weedeater and battery charger.

He was arrested and later pleaded guilty to six charges of accessing a computer for dishonest purposes, and two charges relating to his employer, Parklands Turf Cambridge, of using a document for pecuniary advantage, and theft.

Counsel Jessie Lang told Judge Clark that Johnstone had been working as a tractor driver but had his licence revoked.

He’d also been involved in a car crash late last year in which he suffered a suspected seizure and was now waiting to see a neurologist.

He also had mental health issues and had used alcohol and drugs to self-medicate.

Lang said his client wasn’t in a position to pay reparation as he wasn’t working at the moment and was on ACC, and asked Judge Clark that she arrive at an end term of six-and-a-half to seven months’ home detention.

Judge Clark said seeing that Johnstone had offered to pay reparation and had written the court a remorse letter showed her that he was ashamed of his behaviour.

Johnstone had been making positive changes in his life - getting a new job and leaving his friend circle - after being arrested and before his accident.

He was now unable to work due to his head injuries.

Although he had limited means, Johnstone was paying off his fines at $20 per week, so Judge Clark ordered that he direct that payment to reparation instead.

She was heartened that he had the support of his mother, who was in court with him, and that he still had a lot of work to do on himself.

After applying various discounts she sentenced Johnstone to five months’ home detention, taking into account that he was paying reparation.

She also ordered him not to use alcohol or drugs, not to contact his victims or his former employer or use Facebook Marketplace.

‘Check veracity of Facebook page’

Netsafe has warned that fake Facebook profiles often look legitimate, but urged people to take the time to scan them before engaging in a transaction.

"If the trader has a Facebook profile that appears new or incomplete this could be a sign that the account has been set up for scamming."

Netsafe states on its website that the safest option is to pay the seller only after the goods have been inspected.

"However, if this isn’t possible it’s important to remember that if the deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.

"You should always request tracked shipping when you purchase online and if you have any doubts about the goods or the seller don’t go ahead with the deal."

 - Belinda Feek, Open Justice reporter