Sad downfall of young millionaire

The millionaire nephew of Ita Buttrose has been sentenced for fraud.
The millionaire nephew of Ita Buttrose has been sentenced for fraud.

The start-up millionaire nephew of ABC chair Ita Buttrose has told a court he is back on the straight-and-narrow after a “drug-induced psychosis” landed him in court in two states on fraud charges.

Andrew Spira, 25, pleaded guilty late last year to dishonestly obtaining financial advantage by deception after he used stolen credit card details to book a bed and breakfast in NSW’s Hunter Valley.

Only days later, Spira was arrested by Darwin police on May 22 while trying to flee the country on a false passport to raise an armed militia in Southeast Asia. He was later convicted in an NT court.

During sentencing on Thursday, lawyer Samir Karnib said Spira, who is the son of Sydney socialite Elizabeth Buttrose, was heavily influenced by a range of drugs at the time of both offences.

Andrew Spira pleaded guilty to a single fraud-related charge. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Swift

“He was in a drug-induced psychosis … The major point of the offending is that he was influenced by a significant amount of drugs that had a major impact on his actions,” Mr Karnib said

“He calls it his own self destruction, he had no reason to do what he did. He was of the view someone was chasing him. He can’t change what has happened, but he regrets it completely”.

Mr Karnib told the court Spira did not remember much from he time of the offence that “within the hour” of getting the accommodation's bank details, he paid back the amount in full.

Court documents reveal Spira and his partner had organised to spend the night at Mala Rretreat in Louth Park, north of Newcastle, and were captured on CCTV entering the premises.

Spira’s partner later arranged for the couple to spend another night at the bed the breakfast, but was told their payment was declined. She apologised and said she would “fix the payment”.

Lawyer Samir Karnib, left, with millionaire Andrew Spira. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Swift

Later that afternoon, the owner was contacted by a woman who claimed her details had been fraudulently used to pay for accommodation and immediately contacted local NSW police.

But, before they could arrive, Spira and his partner left the remote bed and breakfast in a private taxi before flying to the Northern Territory, leaving behind a full bill of $948.10.

A search of Spira’s phone following his arrest revealed messages between the millionaire and an “unknown entity” who provided the bank details used to book the accommodation.

In sentencing, magistrate Julie Zaki told the court psychological reports tendered during both matters described Spira’s long standing mental health issues, including complex PTSD.

Ms Zaki said it was “too his credit” that Spira had sobered up following his two months in custody in the NT, but ruled against an attempt by Mr Karnib to have the matter dealt with by a fine.

She convicted Spira of a 12-month community corrections order, in addition to an existing good behaviour bond for the NT charges. He will also be required to continue mental health treatment.