‘Sleepless nights’: Victims homeless after woman’s $26k scam
A woman who rolled out a "calculated" scam to swindle $26,000 from vulnerable renters has heard how her victims were forced to live in tents and suffered sleepless nights.
Patricia Anne McIntyre obtained $26,000 from eight victims under the pretence of providing them with a rental property in Ilkley between October, 2020 and January this year.
Police prosecutor Nichale Bool said the scam had a "significant impact" on the victims and denied families of their basic human need for a home.
She said the victims included a single dad of two who was unemployed at the time, a woman who lost $19,000 as a result of the incident and two brothers who were told about the scam the day they were meant to move in.
"... The defendant's actions meant (the brothers) had to live in a tent with their dogs for approximately 40 days," Ms Bool said.
"The victim goes through months of jumping around to different camping areas … it (the victim impact statement) states he is significantly traumatised by the event."
Ms Bool said one of the victims said she has many "sleepless nights" worrying about finances and had suffered psychologically.
Ms Bool said McIntyre used a high level of deceit and confidence to carry out the complex plan.
" … (McIntyre) initiated contact with all victims on social media when she was made aware of their troubles in securing housing," she said.
"From there she created a level of trust for the victims by exchange in communication as the owner of the house."
Ms Bool said McIntyre charged some families $400 to view the property and used the COVID-19 induced rental crisis to make up a story claiming the property was in high demand.
"By telling victims numerous people were interested in the property has in turn made the victims pay bond and four to six rents in advance to immediately hold the lease," she said.
The court heard McIntyre also forged and uttered false tenancy agreements.
McIntyre was sentenced to an 18-month probation order for fraud charges just two weeks before she started the rental scam.
Ms Bool said the scam was sophisticated and used the rental crisis to prey on vulnerable victims.
She suggested a two and a half year prison sentence with a parole release date after a third.
" … (McIntyre) claimed that her motivation was for housing for herself however … her fraud was over $25,000 which well exceeded the funds to obtain a rental property," she said.
"It was simply opportunistic based on the current rental crisis.
"She has defrauded the very victim she claims to be."
McIntyre pleaded guilty to 17 charges including eight counts of fraud - dishonestly obtaining property from another and three counts of uttering a forged document.
Solicitor Christopher Lumme said the 50-year-old had completed a traffic controller course but was unable to obtain the qualification after receiving a conviction for fraud offences.
"She says she felt a lot of shame in relation to that and she couldn't bring herself to tell her partner who had been extremely supportive of her getting that ticket," he said.
"Her partner had supported her during that period of time financially and it placed them into a relatively dire financial position."
Mr Lumme said McIntyre pretended to still have the job using the defrauded funds as an income.
He said McIntyre had a traumatic childhood.
"As a result of her upbringing she understands she tries to avoid conflict and confrontation which is essentially the reason how this offending takes place," Mr Lumme said.
The court heard she suffered from depression and anxiety and had started a mental health plan.
Mr Lumme said the scam was not sophisticated and suggested 15 to 18-month prison sentence with an immediate parole release date.
"There was no possible scenario in which Ms McIntyre doesn't get found out and arrested and charged with her conduct," he said.
"She gave them her ID, they knew where she lived, she gave them the bank account … she sent them a copy of her driver's license as well."
Mr Lumme said McIntyre didn't have confirmed employment and could struggle to pay restitution.
Magistrate Maxine Baldwin said McIntyre undertook a "calculated and despicable" plan to prey upon people who were vulnerable.
"How you could meet these people and look them in the eye and then just rip them off, it's just beggars belief of any moral compass," she said.
McIntyre was sentenced to two years in prison.
She was ordered to pay a total of $26,110 in restitution to the victims.
Eighty-nine days of pre-sentence custody was declared as time already served and she will be released on parole on September 14.
The probation order given to her on September 21, last year in Nambour Magistrates Court was revoked, and she was sentenced to six months in prison for four counts of fraud and one month for a stealing offence.
Both were suspended for three years.