The Versace and Prada clothes seemed a little lavish for a teenager. Then there was the Louis Vuitton luggage, the limousines, the penthouses overlooking Sydney Harbour. How on earth could a 14-year-old afford this celebrity lifestyle, his mother wondered.
She found out that her son was masterminding an eBay scam that had netted him A$200,000 (£130,500) – and that Australia's big four banks appeared to be helping him launder the money by allegedly showering him with bank accounts and debit cards.
Neither the boy nor his mother can be identified for legal reasons, but details of the bizarre case have emerged from documents lodged with the New South Wales Supreme Court. He was arrested at school after his frauds were linked to a classroom computer.
His mother, who lives south of Sydney, is seeking damages from the banks – Commonwealth, ANZ, Westpac and National Australia Bank – and an apology for "unconscionable conduct".
The boy sold non-existent items on eBay, the online auction site, at one stage earning more than $6,000 a day. His mother's suspicions were aroused when he began booking penthouses costing $4,300 a night and hiring limousines to go to the beach.
He also flew friends around Australia for weekend parties in rented luxury apartments. "There I was, a single mother of two, desperately struggling to put food on the table," his mother said. "He, meanwhile, would stroll in after feasting at the latest fancy restaurant of his choice and chuck me leftovers in a plastic tub."
A log book she found solved the mystery. It detailed "thousands of dollars worth of transactions with eBay customers, all of whom had deposited money into his bank accounts for non-existent laptops, mobile phones and watches".
The boy's mother said she repeatedly contacted the banks, warning them that he was a minor who was depositing illegally gained funds and begging them to stop giving him accounts and debit cards. They ignored her or refused to discuss the matter, citing privacy concerns, she alleges.
All four banks said they would defend themselves against the allegations.
Since 2007, the woman handed her son to the police 15 times. He was an "insecure boy out to impress", she said. Now that he no longer had money, most of his so-called friends had disappeared.Reuse content