'Calculated' internet fraudster stole identities

AN unsuspecting internet shopper duped by a Cairns scammer found his identity used to swindle other victims out of thousands of dollars.

The fraudster, Ashley Jon Ernst, 34, sold fictional shipping containers and other heavy equipment from fake Gumtree accounts.

He used the bank account of his unwary girlfriend - a full time carer for two autistic children - in his complicated grifts. Ernst, originally of South Australia, advertised a gearbox for sale on Gumtree last September and negotiated a $300 deposit from an interstate complainant.

"The defendant requested that the complainant supply pictures of his driver's licence, bank card etc to prove that the complainant was not a scam," documents tendered to Cairns Magistrates Court state.

"The defendant never sent the gearbox." Armed with those details Ernst went on to dupe other victims.

In January he used the stolen identity to advertise a semi- trailer for sale and managed to con the buyer out of $5000.

Later that month Ernst advertised a shipping container and conned a woman out of $3000. It was not the first time Ernst used a shipping container to lure victims.

In December 2018 he advertised a container for sale using an identity lifted from a stolen wallet and had the takings - $2700 -- deposited into his girlfriend's account, which he immediately withdrew.

His total haul - $11,500 over two months - was dwarfed by previous cons that scammed $20,000.

Last month Cairns detectives observed Ernst's black Holden Commodore in Palm Cove and after a search, found a sawn-off rifle and a small amount of cannabis.

"The defendant made full and frank admissions," the court documents state.

"He did say however that he has done many frauds involving shipping containers."

Ernst appeared in Cairns Magistrates Court yesterday and pleaded guilty to fraud, weapons and drugs charges.

"There was a significant history of fraud - thousands of dollars were involved," Magistrate Allan Comans said.

"It was calculated and sophisticated."

The court heard Ernst embarked on the scams to fund his drug habit.

"Community derision has to be shown," Mr Comans said.

Ernst was jailed for 27 months but will be released on parole after one year.

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