Former child genius turned to crime to feed heroin addiction, court told

At the age of two, Christopher Hopely was considered a child genius, and could recite the alphabet both forwards and backwards.

Hopely, who later changed his name by deed poll to "Adam Weishaupt", after the 18th-century German philosopher, had the world at his feet before turning to crime to feed a heroin addiction.

His mother, Amanda Hopely, claimed he had a gift with numbers similar to that of the character played by Dustin Hoffman in the movie Rain Man.

Weishaupt, 31, pleaded guilty in the County Court today to stealing more than $85,000 by deceiving banks into giving him victims' credit card details when he was 19.

Police had been planning to charge him with card-skimming in 2006, but he had moved to South Australia.

He was arrested when he returned to Victoria last year after his mother was diagnosed with cancer.

Defence lawyer Jessica Fallar told the court that Weishaupt had had "delusions of grandeur" when he was younger.

He was remanded in custody, to be sentenced on February 20.

The philosopher Adam Weishaupt had been the leader of a movement of republican free thought known as the Illuminati. It was founded as a secret society in 1776 in Bavaria with the aim of replacing Christianity with a religion of reason.

According to court documents, Hopely had been dux of Tudor House, a preparatory school for Kings College in Sydney, when he was 7.

The first time he broke the law was when he was 13, just weeks after the death of his beloved uncle, Christopher Hopely.

His life spiralled out of control when he left school at 14. He became a father two years later when living on the streets and had about 400 convictions for dishonesty by 2003.

He had his first taste of heroin while in juvenile detention.

When jailed in 2003 for a $100,000 fraud committed in Melbourne, County Court judge Frances Hogan told him that he obviously had exceptional talents, "which, if applied appropriately, could lead to personal fulfilment and make a great contribution to society".

"Unless you decide to use them in a positive way, you are just going to continue to be a menace to society and to waste your life and spend it in prison.

"You have a superior intelligence and the capacity to acquire knowledge despite your limited formal education. You are morally bankrupt and are driven by the uncontrolled desire to challenge authority whenever and wherever possible."

Psychologist Shona Innes noted that Weishaupt's beliefs in the Illuminati were "somewhat grandiose" in that he believed he was the chosen one and he had to complete a certain number of missions in order to obtain immortality.

Another psychologist, Ian Joblin, found it was almost impossible to know if Weishaupt was telling psychiatric experts the truth, or telling them what he believed they wanted to hear.

Most psychiatrists who had seen Weishaupt were more or less convinced he was suffering from schizophrenia, but doubts existed.

Judge Hogan described Weishaupt's offending as having been caused by "a complex combination of an anti-social personality, some ill-defined psychological or psychiatric problems compounded by substance abuse and a high intelligence unguided by an appropriate sense of morality".

During his time in prison, Weishaupt studied philosophy, religion and French.

Weishaupt told the court today he had had "a very, very severe heroin addiction" at the time of the offending and asked if he could be given a community corrections order.

But Judge Carolyn Douglas said he had been involved in a sophisticated crime and had to be jailed.

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