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  1. #1
    Member peter000's Avatar
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    Sydney Morning Herald - The tar, the strippers and the $3000 tab

    The tar, the strippers and the $3000 tab

    BELLINDA KONTOMINAS COURTS
    March 16, 2010, Sydney Morning Herals

    IF THE transactions on Benjamin Sweetenham's credit cards were anything to go by, the naval officer had a night to remember.

    At 1.43am on August 2, 2008, the lieutenant allegedly paid $704 for a private lap dance from two strippers at the King Cross establishment, Showgirls.

    Eight minutes later he allegedly spent $209 for a bottle of sparkling wine and the company of a hostess for half an hour before allegedly splashing out $2198 over three hours to take two of the strip club's artists to another venue for drinks.

    Yesterday Lieutenant Sweetenham, 28, faced a general court martial of the Australian Defence Force, held at Victoria Barracks, charged with misusing his Defence travel card in relation to the $3111 transactions.

    The prosecuting officer, Captain Leyla Alpaslan, said Lieutenant Sweetenham spent $726 on two transactions at Showgirls, using his NAB Visa card. When that was overdrawn, he used his Defence travel card, the prosecution alleged.

    Captain Alpaslan said it was not for the panel to judge Lieutenant Sweetenham's choice of venue, but ''the service provided by the World Famous Showgirls cannot be said to be used for the [needs of the] Commonwealth''.

    Lieutenant Sweetenham, who is undertaking submarine officer training on HMAS Stirling in Western Australia, pleaded not guilty to each charge.

    His defending officer, Lieutenant Paul Hogan, conceded his client had been at Showgirls that evening but had experienced an ''alcohol blackout'' and had become the victim of a fraud.

    His client had been drinking ''inordinate amounts'' of beer and rum and it was reasonable to conclude that others, possibly members of Showgirls' staff, had been involved in the fraudulent use of the defence credit card.

    The signatures on the Visa vouchers did not ''remotely resemble'' that of Lieutenant Sweetenham - who had arrived home in a taxi before the final transaction was said to have taken place, he told the court.

    The following morning Lieutenant Sweetenham reported the defence credit card lost and as a result Diner's Club began a fraud investigation. Lieutenant Sweetenham later paid the amount in question.

    The court martial continues.

  2. #2
    Thaiguy
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    I think I'd back the Lieutenants explanation on this one ,good chance most of Kings Cross nightclub and strip staff are Lebanese or Bangkok trained. Sounds like the poor guy had a few and copped an old fashioned Mickey Finn ?

  3. #3
    Member peter000's Avatar
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    Actually, it's quite a sad situation. The poor bastard could well face losing his career in abject disgrace because on 1 night on the turps.

    However, with Paul Hogan on his side he might be OK.

  4. #4
    Member Isee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Thaiguy View Post
    I think I'd back the Lieutenants explanation on this one... Sounds like the poor guy had a few and copped an old fashioned Mickey Finn ?
    Quote Originally Posted by peter000 View Post
    The poor bastard could well face losing his career in abject disgrace because on 1 night on the turps.
    Don't know about sympathy for him, maybe stupidity. The final outcome will depend on the finer details of the reported events, you are right though that even if he got out of the charges, his ability to get so drunk is not to the standards expected of an officer and his rise through the ranks will be the opposite to meteoric. There was no report that his defense raised any suggestion that he may have been drugged. Unless there is evidence to collaborate his story, I will call this one and say they will find him guilty unless a deal is done to plea to a lower charge. Him paying back the money would have been the first thing his lawyer would tell him to do and comes into play in sentencing. Seems to me his lawyer is working with nothing and the guy is hoping that the prosecutor can't meet the test, trust me, when you make statements like my client was drinking inordinate amounts of alcohol on the night in question - you are working with nothing. The reported "alcohol blackout" isn't going to fool anyone, he easily managed to get himself home that evening. His defense is also tripping up on itself, trying to argue a blackout and then compare card signatures - they are polar arguments. Reporting the card missing....yeah I would too

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by peter000
    His client had been drinking ''inordinate amounts'' of beer and rum
    Quote Originally Posted by peter000
    The signatures on the Visa vouchers did not ''remotely resemble'' that of Lieutenant Sweetenham
    Hardly suprising then. I reckon he's on a sticky wicket with this and is likely to cop it.

    Poor bastard? Not so sure. Having cocked up royally on binges once or twice myself and suffered the consequences I only had myself to blame.

  6. #6
    Member Isee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Thaiguy View Post
    ... the poor guy ...
    Quote Originally Posted by peter000 View Post
    The poor bastard
    Thinking about this some more, I would say I feel sorry for the guy as they have thrown him a junior lawyer, which from the sounds of his arguments, is cutting his teeth on this one. Still think the guy's an idiot though.

  7. #7
    Thaiguy
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    I agree he was very stupid and brought the uniform into disgrace - still he was young and stupid as many of us once were (I am the only exception of course?)
    Interesting to note that the Australian Navy and the British Navy are allowed to take the loyal toast seated because Queen Victoria whilst guest of honour at a formal naval dinner noticed that when it came for the loyal toast many of the officers were too drunk to stand and some even fell backwards over their chairs.
    She then decided that as she could not be present at all formal occasions in the many outposts of the Empire, rather than see the Uniform be discredited all officers would henceforth take the toast seated.
    It must be remembered that in Victorian times a formal dinner would have up to 33 different courses with a suitable beverage accompanying every course?
    No wonder the poor buggers finished up legless?

  8. #8
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    sunsetter's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by peter000
    Paul Hogan
    the one and only ?

  9. #9
    Member peter000's Avatar
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    the one and only ?
    Doubt it. He lives in self-imposed exile in California nowadays.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Isee
    The final outcome will depend on the finer details of the reported events, you are right though that even if he got out of the charges, his ability to get so drunk is not to the standards expected of an officer and his rise through the ranks will be the opposite to meteoric.
    an officer is not allowed to get drunk ?

    geez, he has hardly raped and pillaged or anything.

  11. #11
    Member Isee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kingwilly View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Isee
    The final outcome will depend on the finer details of the reported events, you are right though that even if he got out of the charges, his ability to get so drunk is not to the standards expected of an officer and his rise through the ranks will be the opposite to meteoric.
    an officer is not allowed to get drunk ?

    geez, he has hardly raped and pillaged or anything.
    Getting drunk wasn't the problem and to summarise it down to that one element is misrepresenting the events. There is a difference to getting drunk and what his defense officer is trying to argue that he was so drunk, his drunken stupor resulted in military property (yes, that would be the travel card) to be taken from him without his knowledge (if you believe his...errrr, "story") and resulted in the Commonwealth being defrauded(**see below). There are many officers (and NCO's) that are drunks and alcoholics, the military is happy so long as its kept private, doesn't interfere with their duties or responsibilities, or brings the Services into disrepute. Your boy here failed on all counts. Funnily enough, military officers have this "lead by example" expectation by their superiors. This concept isn't limited to to military and "higher expectations" can be found across the board ie; teachers fiddling with their students, lawyers getting caught doing anything illegal etc etc to name but a couple. I can tell you right now for example, that a lawyer getting done on drink driving in my neck of the woods will face a harsher penalty than your average Joe Bloggs. Why?? Because there is a higher expectation by the Courts that lawyers will obey the laws. Using your argument, the lawyer could argue that he has the same choice as anyone else to drink and drive - that doesn't mean the Court is going to accept it. Lawyers (for this example) aren't treated differently at law by the offence they committed, they are treated differently by the considerations that a Court can take into account in sentencing. The same will apply to your boy here.


    ** A very simplistic defense argument that will fall flat on its arse without any corroborating evidence and the guys only hope is really the prosecution not meeting the legal test. The guy is facing a number of charges, he'll get done on something.

  12. #12
    Thaiguy
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    Quote Originally Posted by kingwilly View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Isee
    The final outcome will depend on the finer details of the reported events, you are right though that even if he got out of the charges, his ability to get so drunk is not to the standards expected of an officer and his rise through the ranks will be the opposite to meteoric.
    an officer is not allowed to get drunk ?

    geez, he has hardly raped and pillaged or anything.
    An example will have to be made of him.

  13. #13
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    I was replying to Isee, who said, "his ability to get so drunk is not to the standards expected of an officer"

  14. #14
    Member peter000's Avatar
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    March 27, 2010, Sydney Morning Herald

    Complaints swirl around a Kings Cross strip club, writes Bellinda Kontominas. It begins as a regular night on the town. A few drinks with mates turns into a dozen and by 11pm the neon lights of a Kings Cross strip club are too dazzling to refuse.
    What remains of the night is a blur. The next morning a hefty credit card bill is waiting, and there is little memory of what could possibly have occurred to rack it up. In the sober light of day this has been the reality for some patrons who pass through the doors of the World Famous Show Girls.

    The Darlinghurst Road establishment has come under fire during the past two weeks as an Australian Defence Force court martial has heard allegations of credit card fraud carried out at the venue on a young naval officer, Lieutenant Benjamin Sweetenham.

    But the allegations do not end there. King Cross police have received a number of complaints from Show Girls patrons alleging theft of property and having been charged for services they do not remember. Police have had difficulty tracking down perpetrators as there is usually minimal evidence and often the alleged victim cannot clearly remember what happened the night before. Police have not pressed charges against the venue or its staff in relation to these allegations.

    Lieutenant Sweetenham had been drinking heavily with family and friends in Double Bay from the afternoon of August 1, 2008. As the night wore on the trainee submariner found himself alone at Show Girls, having become separated from the group. He cannot account for what happened between 10.30pm and 2.30 the next morning when he was woken by a taxi driver. Later that day Lieutenant Sweetenham reported his Defence travel card missing and was told of the irregular transactions. His card had been charged more than $3000 for private lap dances, a bottle of champagne and the company of two strippers away from the venue. Some of that money was charged to his card after he had returned home.

    On Thursday Lieutenant Sweetenham was acquitted of three charges that he misused his Defence travel card after it was found there was not enough evidence to prove his involvement in any of the transactions. Show Girls transaction receipts for two charges to the lieutenant's private credit card revealed signatures bearing little resemblance to those on the card. No receipts could be supplied for the Defence travel card transactions. Closed-circuit TV footage of the transactions was not available.

    A Show Girls manager, Sarah Way, told the court martial it was common for the club to receive four to five "comebacks" a month, in which patrons returned to dispute charges to their credit cards. Banks would also later deduct the money for customer transactions that Show Girls could not adequately explain from the club's account.

    NSW police COPS database entries reveal more than 800 incidents allegedly occurring at Show Girls in just over four years. Several relate to staff handing over piles of wallets, credit cards and other property found on the premises. Others allege theft or card skimming.

    On July 14, 2008, one patron complained to police that his credit card had been charged about $3000 for services he did not receive. Another patron told police he received inexplicable charges from Qantas and an interstate bedding company after a night at Show Girls.

    The Herald is aware of other alleged incidents.

    ''Damien'' had gone to Show Girls one night last July to celebrate a friend's birthday when his wallet was allegedly stolen from his jacket pocket.

    His company credit card was used to rack up more than $1600 in fraudulent sales before the pickpocket returned it to the jacket. The following Tuesday he received a phone call from his boss asking him to explain the transactions.

    "I know for a fact somebody in that club pinched the card out of my wallet," he said. But police said they would not act until an internal investigation by the company had been finalised.

    ''Peter'' said he had one lap dance at Show Girls in 2008 and was woken up the next morning by the bank, which had put a block on his credit card. "I have never spent that much money on a night out in my life," he said of the $2000 charge.

  15. #15
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    Happyman's Avatar
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    I went to a club in Athens many years ago - entertained clients on my company credit card ( with prior permission up to a 1500$US limit )
    Had a good time !

    Left the next day for the wastes of Algeria for 3 weeks

    Got back and was knee deep !

    Company were slammed for a card bill for over 12,000 $ US.

    Was summoned to the head office to explain and handed my card over .
    Had been popped back in my wallet after I paid the club bill and not taken out since.

    The card was a perfect replica of an American Express card with no details embossed on it !

    In the dim light of the club they had switched it and given me the replica back - and then proceeded to milk the account !

    Amex sorted it out ( entry and exit visas from Algeria proved that I was not still in Athens when the other transactions were done)and all ok ! but you have to be very aware of the sneaky bastards - they know all the tricks !!!

    If I had still been in Greece though I would have been in deep Poo!

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    Member peter000's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Happyman View Post
    I went to a club in Athens many years ago - entertained clients on my company credit card ( with prior permission up to a 1500$US limit )
    Had a good time !

    Left the next day for the wastes of Algeria for 3 weeks

    Got back and was knee deep !

    Company were slammed for a card bill for over 12,000 $ US.

    Was summoned to the head office to explain and handed my card over .
    Had been popped back in my wallet after I paid the club bill and not taken out since.

    The card was a perfect replica of an American Express card with no details embossed on it !

    In the dim light of the club they had switched it and given me the replica back - and then proceeded to milk the account !

    Amex sorted it out ( entry and exit visas from Algeria proved that I was not still in Athens when the other transactions were done)and all ok ! but you have to be very aware of the sneaky bastards - they know all the tricks !!!

    If I had still been in Greece though I would have been in deep Poo!
    A year or so ago, I stayed at the Citystate Tower Hotel, a reasonably well-known establishment in Manila and they swiped my Amex card as "security" on the room. This was done in front of me and the card never left my sight. Checked out, paying cash and all seemed fine, but by the time I got back to Oz 2 first class tickets to the USA had been charged to the card. The thing is that I did not use the Amex card anywhere else on that trip, so the shenanigans had to have happened as CSTower, despite the manager's denial. I explained the circumstances to Amex and the charges were reversed immediately and the card was voided. Amex security bod was not particularly interested in where/how this occurred, explaining that it is commonplace and at the end of the day the Phil cops don't give a toss anyway.

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    Member Isee's Avatar
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    Good the guy got off even though its going to be an embarrassment in his career - I seriously thought he would get done on a minor charge at the least. What saved him was evidencing the "known problem" of these incidents occurring in hand with, as mentioned in the article, no actual evidence showing him using the card. To be honest, I presumed that someone from that establishment would have given evidence that they saw the Lt using the card - instead it seemed the manager was used to give "general" evidence. I guess I was too harsh with my comments about his legal officer. Its funny the article mentioned there was no CCT footage which I'm guessing is to suggest that it is installed inside?? These places are going to have to step up their forgery techniques - pretty stupid of them as well charging a Gov't card.

  18. #18
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    Bet he's glad he didn't 'trust you' Isee...
    Quote Originally Posted by Isee
    Seems to me his lawyer is working with nothing and the guy is hoping that the prosecutor can't meet the test, trust me, when you make statements like my client was drinking inordinate amounts of alcohol on the night in question - you are working with nothing. The reported "alcohol blackout" isn't going to fool anyone, he easily managed to get himself home that evening. His defense is also tripping up on itself, trying to argue a blackout and then compare card signatures - they are polar arguments. Reporting the card missing....yeah I would too
    Quote Originally Posted by peter000
    On Thursday Lieutenant Sweetenham was acquitted of three charges that he misused his Defence travel card after it was found there was not enough evidence to prove his involvement in any of the transactions. Show Girls transaction receipts for two charges to the lieutenant's private credit card revealed signatures bearing little resemblance to those on the card. No receipts could be supplied for the Defence travel card transactions. Closed-circuit TV footage of the transactions was not available.

  19. #19
    Member peter000's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Isee
    Good the guy got off even though its going to be an embarrassment in his career
    Yes, it seems to have been a righteous result. Let's hope he has a thick hide, or superior pugilistic skills.

  20. #20
    Member Isee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by klongmaster View Post
    Bet he's glad he didn't 'trust you' Isee...
    The "trust me" part was specifically in relation to what appeared from the news report to be the extent of the argument his legal officer was using. Trust me that if that had been the sum total of the defence (I was so drunk that I can't be held accountable for my actions) it would have went differently. So I still stand by my statement. My mistake was trying to call the outcome based on what was reported in the news. I can't help but wonder if you would have posted anything saying how well I picked it if he was found guilty on some charges...

    Cheers

  21. #21
    Member peter000's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Isee View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by klongmaster View Post
    Bet he's glad he didn't 'trust you' Isee...
    The "trust me" part was specifically in relation to what appeared from the news report to be the extent of the argument his legal officer was using. Trust me that if that had been the sum total of the defence (I was so drunk that I can't be held accountable for my actions) it would have went differently. So I still stand by my statement. My mistake was trying to call the outcome based on what was reported in the news. I can't help but wonder if you would have posted anything saying how well I picked it if he was found guilty on some charges...

    Cheers
    There was a lot more info in the 2nd article. Clearly (once again) you cannot trust the press,even the SMH.

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