Fraudster Samantha Azzopardi is eligible for parole after she was sentenced for stealing children from two Melbourne families while pretending to be a qualified au pair and talent scout.
A magistrate on Friday said the motive behind the 32-year-old’s “bizarre” offending remained unclear as she sentenced the con woman to two years in jail with a non-parole period of 12 months.
Samantha Azzopardi has been diagnosed with a severe borderline personality disorder and a rare condition called pseudologia fantastica, which manifests with extreme lying.
With 573 days in jail already served, it meant Azzopardi was immediately eligible for parole.
Azzopardi pleaded guilty on Monday to three counts of child stealing, obtaining property by deception, handling stolen goods, theft and causing a false report to be made to police, relating to offending which began in mid-2018.
She was arrested on November 1, 2019, after she went to a Bendigo youth mental health service in a blue school uniform in the company of two children, pretending to be a 14-year-old pregnant teenager. She was caring for the two girls after conning their parents into believing she was a qualified nanny.
It later emerged that she had also duped basketball star Tom Jervis and his wife Jazze into believing she was a qualified nanny called Harper Hernandez and cared for their toddler for a year. She later stole Ms Jervis’ driver’s licence and iPad.
The child-stealing charges related to the two children found with Azzopardi in Bendigo, and a separate “elaborate ruse” in which she took a 12-year-old girl on a trip to Sydney under the pretence that she was a talent scout called Marley.
On Friday afternoon, magistrate Johanna Metcalf said while Azzopardi had not harmed the children in her care, her deceptive behaviour had an impact on her victims which likely “will be with them forever”.
“I accept the children were not taken from their parents for prolonged periods, that you did not intend to permanently deprive parents of their offspring … and also you weren’t motivated by financial gain or by a desire to keep the children for yourself, or by motive such as fame or notoriety,” she said.
“To me, the motive behind your bizarre offending remains unclear but I do note [the forensic psychiatrist’s] comment about child-related things in your deceptions and the likely link to severe childhood trauma.”
Ms Metcalf noted Azzopardi’s criminal history of dishonesty in Queensland, Western Australian, NSW and Commonwealth matters dating back to 2010, and also “deceptive engagement” with authorities in Ireland and Canada.
The court previously heard Azzopardi had been diagnosed with a severe borderline personality disorder and a rare condition called pseudologia fantastica, which manifests with extreme lying.
Ms Metcalf said she accepted evidence that Azzopardi was a “disturbed young woman” and said there was a link between her mental health issues and her offending, which reduced her moral culpability to an extent.
However, she said deterrence and community protection had to be factors in sentencing, and she accepted that without long-term treatment Azzopardi’s risk of reoffending would be high.
The magistrate said she had been leaning towards imposing a community corrections order, however, earlier in the day, Azzopardi’s lawyer told the court her client did not consent to that course of action.
“I’ve come to the view the appropriate sentence is a term of imprisonment with a non-parole period as being the only sentence that will meet the purposes of sentencing and provide that you’re released on an appropriately tailored and supervised set of conditions,” she said.
Azzopardi watched the proceedings via video link from jail looking at the floor and did not react when the sentence was read out. She stood up and left the room the moment the hearing finished.
Azzopardi first came to the public’s attention when she turned up in a distressed state near the GPO in Dublin in October 2013. The “GPO girl”, as she came to be known, told police she was a teen victim of the sex slave trade. It took authorities a month and an estimated quarter of a million euros to identify her.
A year later, aged 26, she turned up in Calgary, Canada, claiming to be 14-year-old Aurora Hepburn, a victim of abduction and sexual assault. After spending an estimated $US150,000 trying to help her, police determined her true identity. She was charged with public mischief for misleading police, and deported at the end of 2014.
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