An Australian woman has pleaded guilty to fraud and identity theft after claiming a deceased Sea World pilot, whom she had never met, was driving her car when she received a traffic fine.

SBS News reports Stephanie Louise Bennett appeared in Beenleigh Magistrates Court yesterday after the Court rejected her attempt earlier this month to enter a guilty plea via email.

She arrived at court, disguised in a scarf, to hecklers. Inside, she pleaded guilty to the offences.

Her sentencing will take place on May 19.

She had used details from Sea World pilot Ashley Jenkinson’s obituary to accuse him of being the driver when she received a fine for the use of a mobile phone while driving.

Mr Jenkinson died on January 4 when two Sea World helicopters collided mid-air. He had never met the defendant.

Police say Ms Bennett received the fine notice in early January. The offence itself had occurred in December, and the fine it carries is $1078 and four demerit points.

A fine notice was in turn sent to Mr Jenkinson’s widow, who alerted police to the issue as she noticed the unfamiliar car.

In her original email submission to the Court, Ms Bennett apologise for the “turmoil” she had caused and said she was “immensely regretful”.

“At the time I was going through personal matters, had time off work due to an injury and had no sick leave or annual leave, as I had just changed jobs,” she said, noting she was going through “financial troubles” and outlining how she had found Mr Jenkinson’s details.

“The following day I remembered what I did and tried to undo it by trying to nominate myself yet the website wouldn’t accept it,” she said.

William Stopford

William Stopford is an automotive journalist based in Brisbane, Australia. William is a Business/Journalism graduate from the Queensland University of Technology who loves to travel, briefly lived in the US, and has a particular interest in the American car industry.

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