An Australian man who faked his own kidnapping to cheat on his girlfriend has been ordered to pay compensation to the police for the time they wasted on searching for him.
Paul Iera hatched the unlikely plot so that he could spend last New Year’s Eve with his mistress.
The 35-year-old tradesman then sent a phoney and misspelt ransom message to his girlfriend, purportedly from a gang of ruthless Middle Eastern kidnappers.
“But I’m going to be fare (sic). We will keep him until the morning wen (sic) he gives us his bike...we call it square, no one’s touching him.”
The message panicked his girlfriend, who called the police. Specialist officers launched an urgent search, spending a total of 200 hours working on the case, which cost the Australian taxpayer around AUD$25,000 (£13,000).
On January 1, the day after the alleged kidnapping, they intercepted Iera’s white van in his hometown of Wollongong in New South Wales.
Believing he was being held hostage inside, they carried out a “high-risk vehicle stop” but found only Iera in the vehicle.
He was later arrested and charged with making a false accusation with the intent to subject another person to investigation.
Michael Ong, a magistrate in Wollongong local court, said Iera’s actions had been “motivated by the least compelling reason” he had ever witnessed in a criminal case.
“You chose to send alarming, frightening messages to your partner so you could get some extra time with another partner,” he said.
Iera could have been sent to prison for up to seven years, but was instead told to pay AUD$16,218 (£8,506) to the government of New South Wales in compensation for police time and resources.
He was also issued a three-year community correction order and told to undertake 350 hours of community service.
“You are at a point where you need to make a choice,” the magistrate said. “You either take a step back, look at yourself and your circumstances and move towards furthering yourself, or alternatively you will move into a situation where imprisonment will be a very realistic option.”
Iera’s lawyer said he was relieved to have avoided time behind bars.
“Since the commission of the offence, Mr Iera has made tremendous rehabilitative progress,” said Abbas Soukie.