An Australian triathlete who referred to himself as a "petty car thief with expensive tastes" has been charged with take and drive conveyance over a string of luxury car thefts throughout Sydney.
Luke Lythgoe claimed to be a former drug addict who had turned his life around.
However, he was arrested by NSW Police at a shopping centre along with his partner, Ashleigh Wilson.
The 33-year-old was refused bail by Police and remains in custody.
Accused of Stealing Cars from Dealerships
Police said that the 33-year-old committed the offences between 30 December 2020 and 4 January 2021.
An investigation was launched by Police after four cars were stolen from car dealerships throughout Sydney.
Originally from the Gold Coast, Mr Lythgoe is alleged to have attended dealerships under the guise of wanting to purchase vehicles.
He would then take the vehicles for 'test drives'. However, he would simply not return the vehicles and keep them.
Amongst the charges, the former triathlete is said to have stolen an Audi RS3 from a Ryde dealership on 30 December 2020.
He is also alleged to have stolen a BMW 3 from Parramatta on 4 January 2021. The missing BMW was later discovered in Kogarah.
Both Lythgoe and 21-year-old Ashleigh Wilson were at Westpoint Shopping Centre at approximately 4.15pm on 7th January 2020.
Police say that several car keys were discovered in Ms Wilson's purse before they found the stolen Audi in the shopping centre's carpark.
After the arrest, Police transported Luke Lythgoe to Blacktown Police Station where he was charged with take and drive conveyance without consent of owner, possess identity to commit indictable offence, goods in custody.
Three outstanding warrants were also executed.
Goods in Custody Charges at Parramatta Local Court
Both parties appeared at Parramatta Local Court last week.
Ashleigh Wilson pleaded guilty to a charge of goods in custody. She was sentenced to a 12 month community corrections order and fined $500.
The fact sheet alleged that she was found with "three or four" sets of keys.
"She concedes she had the keys in her possession and noted they were stolen," her goods in custody lawyer told the court.
Instagram Posts Used in Court
The prosecutor told the court that Mr Lythgoe had a history of "acquiring vehicles from car dealerships and not returning them" in Queensland.
Further, reference was made to the former athlete's social media accounts where he "describes himself as a petty car thief with expensive tastes".
Recent posts on Mr Lythgoe's social media accounts showed the 33-year-old with designer accessories and posing alongside luxury vehicles.
Another photo shows a Burberry jacket, gold Rolex watch and blue latex gloves.
Explaining why he should be denied bail, the prosecutor told the court that NSW Police had been attempting to execute arrest warrants on Mr Lythgoe since 2011 but he had been evading them.
Reformed Drug Addict
On his own website, the triathlete set out his that he battled drug addiction and violence in his youth. He credited his family and sport for keeping him on the path of sobriety.
Indeed, the former marathon runner had previously been sponsored by Garmin Australia as a marathon runner.
Addressing the change in his life, he wrote, "That life is behind me...I never in my wildest dreams imagined I would make it here. I am two years free from ice addiction and the happiest I have ever been."
Queensland Police Seek Extradition
To add to his woes, Queensland Police are also seeking his extradition on fraud charges. Once his NSW charges are finalised it is likely that he will be extradited to Queensland to face those charges.
The case is next listed at Parramatta Local Court on Tuesday, 12 January 2021 where his Parramatta Criminal Lawyers will confirm whether he intends to plead guilty or not guilty.
Police told media at least four cars had been recovered that are alleged to have been stolen.
NSW Police Detective Inspector Michael Fuller told media, "It was definitely a brazen act...From what I understand the cars were moved around Sydney. There was a quick succession between (the alleged) offences."
Take and Drive Conveyance Without Consent of Owner Charges
The definition of take and drive conveyance without the consent of the owner is contained in Section 154A of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW). It explains that taking a conveyance - most commonly a vehicle - without the consent of the owner is a criminal offence.
Taking and driving a conveyance without consent of owner carries a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment.
To establish the offence, the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that:
- You took and drove a conveyance, or you took a conveyance for the purpose of driving it, or to secrete it, obtain a financial reward for it, or for any other fraudulent purpose, or you allowed yourself to be carried in it
- Neither you nor the person who drove it had the owner's consent, and
- You knew the owner did not consent.
A 'conveyance' is defined as any cart, wagon, cab, carriage, motor car, caravan, trailer, motor lorry, tractor, earth moving equipment, omnibus, motor or other bicycle, tank or other military vehicle, or any ship, or vessel, used or intended for navigation.
A 'vessel' is defined as a water craft of any description used or capable of being used as a means of transportation on water.
The following defences to take and drive conveyance without consent of owner can be used:
- Identification: The prosecution cannot prove you were responsible for the taking of the conveyance. If your DNA or fingerprints were found at the scene, we can instruct our team of DNA and fingerprint experts to cast doubt on the prosecution evidence.
- Claim of right: If you held an honest belief that the conveyance taken was yours.
- Duress: You were forced to commit the offence
- Necessity: You needed to commit the offence
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