29 June 2017

Identity Issues

Today's SMH reports on another appearance by Samantha Azzopardi - an echo of Frederic Bourdin, discussed in my doctoral dissertation - for fraud in receiving benefits while pretending to be a child.

The Herald states
A serial conwoman who posed as a 13-year-old Sydney foster child received nearly $20,000 worth of services from the NSW government and charities before she was found out, a court has heard.
Samantha Azzopardi has previously duped authorities in Ireland and Canada into thinking she was a child sex abuse and trafficking victim, forcing them to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars investigating her claims.
The 28-year-old was arrested at the beginning of June after she repeated that same story while pretending to be a 13-year-old Sydney high school student named Harper Hart.
Azzopardi pleaded guilty to four fraud offences earlier this month after she was given an iPad, phone and Opal card from the not-for-profit Burdekin Association, an ambulance transfer paid for by Good Shepherd Australia, and medication from the NSW Department of Family and Community Services.
Hornsby Local Court on Wednesday heard the cost of her lies to the Burdekin Association totalled more than $10,200. That included case management services.
The department spent about $6700 on medication while Azzopardi's charges also cover $1440 worth of counselling from a state government victim services group....
Azzopardi, who did not apply for bail, is due to be sentenced on July 19 when the court will consider a psychiatric assessment.
The 28-year-old faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail, according to court documents outlining police arguments for denying her initial bail.
The document cites her "extensive history of providing false documentation, obtaining passports in false names and assuming identities of other persons" in Queensland, Western Australia, Ireland and Canada.
Irish authorities were dumbfounded in 2013 when Azzopardi was found wandering the streets near Dublin's main post office and tricked them into thinking she was a teenage trafficking victim from eastern Europe by drawing pictures apparently showing a woman being raped and refusing to communicate verbally.
Authorities spent weeks and $A372,218 trying to identify the waif known as the "lost G.P.O girl" before taking the unprecedented step of publicly releasing a photo of her.
They soon discovered she was not a child sex trafficking victim but a 25-year-old Australian scammer with a history of assuming false identities dating back to 2007. ...
Azzopardi] was born into middle class family in 1988, growing up in Campbelltown and attending Mount Annan High School.
After finishing school she got a job at the Campbelltown Pancakes on the Rocks where her former boss described her in 2013 as "a lovely girl who had issues."
Quite so.

Azzopardi is reported to have been convicted in Brisbane Magistrates Court in September and October 2010 oncharges relating to making false representations and forging documents, with a $500 fine. In June 2012 she pleaded guilty in Perth Magistrates Court to offences relating to welfare fraud and was sentenced in October to six months imprisonment, suspended for 12 months.