THE CASES THAT HIT THE HEADLINES
Teacher Keera Brayford (right), 25, from Merseyside, raised almost €22,500 in a crowdfunding scam after pretending to have cancer, telling friends and family she needed money for alternative therapies. Brayford admitted fraud and was sentenced earlier this month to a two-year suspended sentence.
The dinner ladies
Sisters Joanne Pascarelli and Marie Wilson have been accused of pilfering nearly $500,000 (€429,000) in student lunch money over a period of about five years. The two cafeteria workers from Connecticut, both in their 60s, are charged with larceny but are being tried separately. At the time of going to press, Pascarelli had pleaded not guilty while Wilson declined to enter a plea until her next court date. Pascarelli’s lawyer said the women are victims of a ‘witch hunt’ and are being made scapegoats because officials can’t provide any other explanation for how the money went missing. The case is ongoing.
The ‘Portofino Pirate’
Mum of four Larissa Watson, 50 (right), was dubbed the Portofino Pirate after allegedly trying to steal a yacht worth around €145,000 in the Italian resort. She started the engine but was spotted by a suspicious harbour worker. Watson, a creative director, was charged with theft. ‘The double life of Larissa Watson seems to have come straight out of a film,’ claimed Italian newspaper La Riviera. ‘In Britain she’s an esteemed artist, in Italy a thief who’s been under scrutiny by the police for some time.’ Watson said: ‘I have never, ever been in trouble with the police before – apart from maybe a parking ticket’ and maintains her innocence.
In 2013 Samantha Azzopardi (right) was found wandering the streets of Dublin, and led authorities to think she was a teenage trafficking victim from Eastern Europe. After an investigation which cost a reported €225,000 she was identified as Australian, aged 25 and from a middle-class background. She was deported from Ireland, then Canada, but in 2016 she repeated the con in Sydney. Last July she was sentenced to a maximum one year in jail after pleading guilty to four charges of dishonestly obtaining financial advantage by deception.
The Horse & Hound hoodwinker
Earlier this year, Charmaine McAllister, 31, from Huddersfield, was jailed for four years after pretending to work for Horse & Hound magazine, calling its advertisers to tell them card payments had been declined. She asked them to give her the details again, then used the money to pay for several cars, cosmetic surgery, designer clothing and hotel stays.
The bogus brides
Amid an epidemic of dating scams where women all over the world persuade men they’ve met online to send them money, three women from Chechnya became surprise international heroes after conning almost €2,250 from Isis fighters in 2015, telling them they needed the cash to join them and become ‘jihadi brides’.