Cairns court told of the $20,000 lie to taxpayers to impress a girlfriend
A CAIRNS man who cooked up an extravagant lie in an apparent bid to glean attention from his girlfriend cost taxpayers more than $20,000 last year.
Benjamin Coglan, 28, made a phone call on July 4 last year and stated a helicopter had crashed off Michaelmas Cay, a large coral cay situated about 40km off Cairns in the Great Barrier Reef.
He fronted Cairns Magistrates Court via video link yesterday and pleaded guilty to providing false information to the Commonwealth.
Police prosecutor Tara Williams told the court Coglan's misleading phone call prompted an emergency air-based search and rescue operation which lasted for more than three hours.
The helicopter, which Coglan reported to have crashed, was found to be safely secured in an aircraft hangar.
"It did call to service the highest of rescue authorities," Ms Williams said.
The search cost the Australian Maritime Safety Authority a total of $20,528.
Coglan's solicitor Scott Osborne said Coglan was "highly intoxicated" at the time.
"He became highly intoxicated, he called his girlfriend at the time and wanted her to feel sorry for him," he said.
Coglan was too inebriated to realise he had spoken to Airservices Australia until he started receiving text messages from them, Mr Osborne told the court.
He said Coglan planned to sell his motorbike and car to repay the cost of the search.
"It is a very large amount of restitution, he does have the ability to repay over half of that," Mr Osborne told the court.
Magistrate Robert Spencer told Coglan it was "very serious" offending.
"You can see how a simple phone call has cost the Australian taxpayers about $20,000," he said. "It can never happen again."
Magistrate Spencer sentenced Coglan to six months' imprisonment with immediate release on parole and ordered he repay the $20,528 sum generated by the deceptive exploration.
Coglan said he was "very sorry".
He was also last month sentenced to 18 months' jail after appearing in Cairns District Court for persistently stalking a woman he met through an online dating website, forcing her to change jobs, homes and phone numbers.
Coglan was eligible for parole for those offences yesterday, having already served more than seven months in custody.