The drug-addicted son of Ita Buttrose’s niece used stolen credit card details to pay for a luxury holiday and then fled on a waiting plane when he was caught.
Andrew Spira, 25, great-nephew of the ABC chairman, was caught when the credit card owner saw the booking transaction at Mala Retreat in the Hunter Valley in New South Wales.
But when hotel boss Adrian Roach confronted him and an alleged accomplice, they raced in a taxi to nearby Cessnock airport and flew on a plane.
They were later arrested in the Northern Territory on a series of similar charges when budding businessman Spira attempted to flee the country on a fake passport.
Spira’s mother is Ita Buttrose’s niece, socialite and former Real Housewives of Sydney reality TV star Lizzie Buttrose, 54.
Spira, who founded lending company Pineapple Funding, checked into the luxury Louth Park bed and breakfast after booking online at a cost of $417.05 for a single night.
A court was told Roach had previously received a phone call on Thursday 18 May 2023 from a man who wanted to make a booking “for his daughter”.
Andrew Spira (pictured) used details from a stolen credit card to pay for a luxury holiday and then fled on a waiting plane when he was caught.
Spira is the grandnephew of ABC chairman and media giant Ita Buttrose.
The mystery caller was told to use the company’s booking website and moments later a booking was made in the name of his alleged accomplice.
At approximately 8pm, Spira arrived at the 5-star accommodation in the heart of the Hunter wine region and was caught on CCTV unpacking.
That night, Spira’s alleged accomplice arranged to extend his stay for one more night at a cost of $567.05 that was charged to the same credit card.
“At around 11am on Friday, the victim (Mr Roach) noticed the additional payment had been declined,” police told Sydney’s Downing Center Local Court.
Roach inquired about the matter and Spira’s alleged accomplice “apologized and informed the victim he would arrange payment”, the court was told.
However, later that day, Anita Fenton, the owner of the credit card, called Mr. Roach and told him that it had been used fraudulently to make the reservation.
The head of the complex immediately called the police, but before they could appear, Spira and his alleged accomplice had fled the scene.
“Spira (and his alleged accomplice) left the scene in a private taxi and boarded a plane at Cessnock Airport,” police told the court.
‘(They) were later arrested in the Northern Territory in relation to similar matters.
‘As a result of this arrest and subsequent investigations by NT Police officers, a mobile phone belonging to Spira was seized and downloaded.
“This phone download contained messages between Spira and another unknown entity in which Spira was provided with Anita Fenton’s bank account details, which were then used to pay for accommodation.”
NSW Police were unable to interview Spira about the B&B fraud after he was arrested in the NT and detained for traveling there using fraudulent credit card details and attempting to flee the country on a fake passport.
NSW Police failed to interview Andrew Spira (pictured) about the B&B fraud after he was arrested in the Northern Territory and detained for traveling there using fraudulent credit card details and attempting to flee the country with a false passport.
Spira checked into the luxury Louth Park bed and breakfast after booking online at a cost of $417.05 for a single night.
Andrew Spira’s lawyer Samir Karnib (pictured with Spira outside court) said the Hunter Valley incident had occurred while he was suffering from “drug-induced psychosis” at the time.
He was jailed for three months before pleading guilty to a series of charges in Darwin, including obtaining financial advantage by deception, dealing in identity information, possessing a false document and using a firearm without a licence.
Defense lawyer Jon Tippett told the Darwin court that Spira was addicted to the drug diazepam and was “a genuinely sick person” who had made “deranged” decisions.
He was placed on an 18-month good behavior bond and ordered to pay almost $39,000 to private jet company AVCAIR.
But last month he was also convicted in Sydney at Downing Center Local Court of a $984.10 B&B fraud and given a 12-month Community Corrections Order.
His lawyer, Samir Karnib, had previously said the Hunter Valley incident had occurred while he was suffering from a “drug-induced psychosis”.
Spira is appealing the sentence to the District Court to be heard next month, while he also faces new assault charges in May related to a separate incident in Sydney which he denies.