Two British schoolboys, Nick Webber and Ryan Thomas, were arrested earlier this year on charges of a multi-million pound internet credit card fraud. It is alleged that they managed to hack into over 65,000 bank accounts and sell the details on a dodgy internet site. Apparently over £8 million was subsequently stolen from the accounts. Other alleged illegal activities by the young gentlemen included running a website called 'Ghostmarket', which offered advice to crooked customers on how to use stolen card details to buy goods, wire cash and call sex phone lines. Sentencing is due on February 28 2011.
Stumbling upon this article on the Sun's website brought back memories of an earlier story about that other infamous teenage card fraudster Stephen Fry. In the latest volume of his autobiography, 'The Fry Chronicles', he relates how, as a teenager, he once pilfered a credit card from a friend of his parents and used it to fund a Bertie Wooster-style spree at the London Ritz. Playing truant from school, and dressed up in his grandfather's clothes, he managed to spend two days propping up the bar, sipping cocktails and smoking Balkan Sobranies. He was eventually discovered, expelled from his public school, and detained for three months at Her Majesty's pleasure in Pucklechurch Prison, a Young Offenders' Institution near Bristol. Thankfully he survived this experience without sinking into a life of crime and depravity, achieving a First at Queens's College and going on to become one of the best and brightest British stars of both television and the cinema.
Like Stephen Fry, Nick Webber is also a Public Schoolboy; like him, he was first arrested back in October 2009 after running up a bill of more than £1000 in a ritzy London hotel using a 'compromised credit card'. Why then do these young men strike me as so much less delightful than Stephen Fry? Maybe it's because their ill-gotten gains were used to finance a life-style including exotic foreign holidays, designer clothes and a Hummer 4x4 (despite the fact they have not yet passed their driving tests).
Let us give them the benefit of the doubt, however, and hope that they too will go on to become polymaths and national treasures…Somehow I seriously doubt it, but we can always hope. They are clearly intelligent, ambitious and resourceful youths, to say the least. Perhaps, like the young Stephen Fry, they will be sent to a Young Offenders Institution, similar to the now-defunct Pucklechurch Prison, learn useful life-skills and go on to become pillars of society. If the state of our prisons is a fair measure of the state of our society, Stephen Fry's 3 months at Her Majesty's Pleasure was a good advertisement for Britain and its criminal justice system.To be strictly fair, I don't think Stephen Fry would be too happy if I ascribed his success solely to this early incarceration in a young offenders unit…there may be an element of natural ability involved too.
Post Script. Is this story actually for real? I mean to say, 'Nick Webber' accused of online fraud?