Kudra Falla-Ricketts, a student from Lismore, NSW, could face the wrath of ASIC, with a $765,000 fine and imprisonment, after an April Fool’s prank went horribly wrong.
The 16-year-old student sent a fake press release to local media notifying them that gas drilling company Metgasco planned to pull out of Northern NSW.
According to a report in The Age, Ms Falla-Ricketts was called into her principal’s office on Tuesday after her fake release caused panic in the gas drilling community, which has been fraught with tension and protests regarding their operations in the area over the past weeks.
Ms Falla-Ricketts’ statement detailed planning for a solar thermal plant, saying Metgasco was “not listening to the people who are telling them to stop.”
Peter Henderson, chief executive of Metgasco, described the young woman’s email as “fraudulent”, having potentially “devastating” effects on shareholders.
The matter, which has been referred to ASIC, could attract a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail or a $765,000 fine or both.
Ms Falla-Ricketts father, a coal seam activist, said Metgasco was being “humourless” about the incident. However, Mr Henderson is unapologetic.
“We understand it’s a practical joke,’’ he told The Age. ‘‘We don’t wish any bad things to the young lady, we understand she’s made a mistake, but it was fraudulent.”
Melbourne University law expert Ian Ramsay has told The Age that Ms Falla-Ricketts’ age could make the matter difficult, especially as no lasting damage appears to have been caused by her letter.