An Australian woman has been charged with fraud after she used the identity of a dead pilot in order to avoid a traffic fine, the Independentreported. 33-year-old Stephanie Louise Bennett pleaded guilty to using Sea World pilot Ash Jenkinson’s identity after she was caught using her mobile phone behind the wheel last year in December.
In order to avoid the mandatory $1,078 fine, Ms. Bennett went online to claim she was not at fault. She then used information from the pilot’s death notice to nominate Mr. Jenkinson as the driver of her vehicle. She allegedly found Mr. Jenkinson’s full name and date of birth in an obituary notice following his death.
As per ABC, Mr Jenkinson died on the Gold Coast Broadwater on January 2 when the helicopter he was flying collided with another helicopter in mid-air. He was killed, along with three passengers on board – Sydney woman Vanessa Tadros, and British couple Ron and Diane Hughes.
When Mr. Jenkinson’s widow received the fine notice just weeks after his death, she raised the matter with the traffic office and police on February 13.
After an investigation, Ms. Bennett pleaded guilty at Beenleigh Magistrates Court on Wednesday, April 26 to fraud and identity theft, according to 9News. She said that she was going through “personal matters” and “financial troubles” at the time, and had tried to undo her actions the next morning ”but the website didn’t accept it.”
In an email to the court, which was read aloud, she apologised “for the turmoil this has caused anyone” and said she was “immensely regretful for my actions”.
Following her guilty plea, Bennet will be sentenced on May 19.