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Prostitute scam led to suicide

7-29-2009 New Zealand:

A woman who was paid for sex and then swindled her 72-year-old Papamoa client out of more than $105,000 has been jailed for three years and four months.

Between March and July 2008, the victim, who committed suicide in February this year, was defrauded of all his life savings by Mary Regina Birch, 46, also of Papamoa, who stole $105,402, including forging and cashing a $85,000 cheque.

In February 2008, Birch was working as a prostitute and provided services to the victim twice.

Not long afterwards, Birch moved into the recently-separated man's home, after telling him she had nowhere to live.

She was given his ATM card and pin number to buy groceries and pay bills. She was also given use of the deceased's car.

Birch also used the ATM card to make unauthorised withdrawals, helped herself to the man's chequebook, forged his signature and cashed two cheques totalling $86,000.

Birch claimed the pair had formed a relationship.

On or about March 21, 2008, when the victim became aware some money was missing from his account and challenged Birch, she told him she was expecting a $30,000 payout from an employment court case and would pay him back.

The victim replaced his bankcard and started locking it, his keys and his wallet away in an electronic safe.

On May 17, Birch wrote out and banked a cheque for $1500 into her account, forging the victim's signature.

Sometime between March and May, despite the victim's objections, Birch's teenage daughter and son and a friend also moved into the house.

Despite several requests by the man for Birch to move out, she refused to budge until he agreed to pay for a removal truck, and pay bond and the first period of rent on her new accommodation.

Just four days after moving out, Birch wrote out another cheque for $85,000, again forging the man's signature, and deposited the money in her bank account.

When police searched Birch's new address on August 13, 2008, they found a $16,000 Mazda car parked on the front lawn, and almost all the contents of the house appeared to be new. Birch, who earlier admitted 48 counts of fraudulently using a document for pecuniary advantage and one of money laundering, appeared before Judge Peter Rollo in Tauranga District Court on Monday.

Crown prosecutor Hayley Booth said Birch's offending had been a significant breach of trust committed against a particularly vulnerable victim who had been reliant on his former wife to manage his financial affairs.

He did not even know how to use an ATM.

There was no doubt Birch's actions had contributed to the victim's decision to take his own life, she said.

Judge Rollo said Birch had used "her sexuality and sympathy" and a position of trust to "manipulate a vulnerable old man".

Judge Rollo said he had no doubt the deceased was devastated and felt shamed when he found out how he had been duped.

"I accept it cannot be said you alone (Birch) can be held accountable for the decision to take his own life, but it is clear your actions were a significant contributor to him taking such a tragic step."

Birch denied she caused the man's suicide, and claimed she did not know why he had taken his own life, the court was told.

Kiwibank would need to pursue the amount owed through a civil suit, given that Birch would serve a significant part of her sentence, the judge. ..Source.. by Sandra Conchie

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