A NSW conwoman whose seven years of scams in three continents cost charities and governments close to $700,000 has been sentenced to at least six months in jail after trying an old trick one more time.
Samantha Azzopardi, 28, pushed her luck too far this year when she posed as a 13-year-old Sydney high school student named Harper Hart and repeated a lie that had previously fooled authorities in Ireland and Canada.
Azzopardi claimed she was a child sex trafficking victim, but when authorities investigated they realised she wasn’t what she seemed.
The 28-year-old appeared Wednesday via video link at Hornsby local Court, where she was sentenced to at least six months jail after pleaing guilty in June to four fraud offences.
Her lies cost NSW charities and government departments more than $155,000.
From 2010, Azzopardi ran scams in Queensland and Western Australia but she only became notorious in 2013 when she was found wandering the streets of Dublin and duped authorities into thinking she was a teenage sex-trafficking victim from eastern Europe.
Hornsby court heard Irish authorities spent more than $400,000 trying to establish who she was and where she’d come from.
She was eventually deported to Australia but in September 2014, using the alias Aurora Hepburn, Azzopardi walked into a clinic in Canada claiming she was 14 and had been a victim of an abduction, sexual assault and torture.
Canadian authorities spent $150,000 on their investigation before realising she was the same woman at the centre of the Dublin saga.
Azzopardi was charged with public mischief in Calgary and faced a maximum sentence of five years in prison but, after pleading guilty, she was sentenced to the two months she’d already served in custody. Again she was sent home to Australia.
Magistrate Philip Cox on Wednesday said it was clear Azzopardi suffered “significant mental health issues”.
“One might wonder as to the likelihood of improvement down the track,” he said.
The Sydney court heard she’d used a fake Californian birth certificate to trick NSW authorities into thinking she was still a teenager.
She was given an iPad, phone and Opal card from the not-for-profit Burdekin House, an ambulance transfer paid for by Good Shepherd Australia and medication from the NSW Department of Family and Community Services.
The $155,000 cost of her frauds included counselling costs and wages.
Outside court, Azzopardi’s mother, who did not want to be identified, told AAP her daughter was a “sweet, adventurous and independent” child growing up. The situation her daughter now found herself in was “heartbreaking”, she added.
Azzopardi, who was sentenced to a maximum of one year in jail, will be eligible for parole in late November.