Hardware stores targeted in deception plot

A Ballarat thief devised an elaborate plan to steal tools and equipment from several country hardware stores, a court heard yesterday. 

David Becker, 21, and a co-accused dreamed up the plot in which they convinced several Mitre 10 stores to provide them with tools and equipment, charging the items to the accounts of unsuspecting victims.

But the offending began to unravel when staff at the stores became suspicious. 

Detailing the offending to Ballarat Magistrates Court, police prosecutor Senior Constable Gerard Barrow said Becker first struck at the Stawell Mitre 10 store on June 11 last year, telling staff he was there to pick up tools on behalf of another person. 

The court heard Becker was given a Makita combo kit, which he signed for and charged to someone’ else’s account. 

Senior Constable Barrow said Becker did not have the other person’s permission to buy the tool. 

The court heard Becker and a co-accused formed a plan to commit a similar offence on October 17 last year, this time targeting Horsham’s Mitre 10 store. 

This time Becker called staff at the store first, making the request for equipment to be ready and charged to an account that was not his. Staff became suspicious and denied his request. 

Senior Constable Barrow said Becker, undeterred by failure that morning, later formed a plan to do the same at the Mitre 10 store in Ararat. 

The court heard suspicious staff tipped off police, telling them Becker was due to come in that afternoon and collect the items. 

Becker and his co-accused were arrested outside the Ararat store while the co-accused loaded tools into a car. Senior Constable Barrow said Becker gave the reason of “stupidity” when questioned by police about the offending. 

Becker yesterday pleaded guilty to a string of charges, including handling stolen goods and theft.

His defence lawyer, Kylie Maloney, said her client began the offending after being asked by his drug dealer to “do a favour for a friend”.

She said Becker accepted the offending had been “entirely dishonest”, but said he had used significant amounts of the drug ice at the time.

Magistrate Michelle Hodgson ordered Becker be assessed for a community corrections order.