A serial con artist who led gardaí to believe she was a victim of sex trafficking will appear in court in Australia tomorrow on charges of child stealing.
n 2013, Samantha Azzopardi was dubbed the ‘GPO Girl’ after she was found wandering on O’Connell Street in a distressed state – apparently unable to speak English.
Gardaí immediately began trying to find out who she was and believed she may have been a teenager from Eastern Europe who had been trafficked into the country and sexually exploited.
However, following an investigation that cost over €250,000 and involved more than 2,000 hours, Azzopardi’s true identity was unveiled.
Gardaí secured High Court permission to release her photograph and a family member soon came forward to identify Azzopardi as a serial con woman.
She was deported but has since fallen foul of the law in Canada and is now facing serious criminal charges in her native Australia.
The 31-year-old will appear at the Melbourne Magistrates Court tomorrow for a committal hearing.
She is before the courts charged with allegedly conning several families into believing that she was a nanny named Harper Hernandez and took off with children whose parents had fallen for her scam.
At a court hearing last month it emerged that she was to plead guilty to three counts of child stealing after originally planning to fight the charges in court.
The 31-year-old was arrested in Bendigo on November 1, 2019, after she was found with a 10-month-old and a four-year-old girl.
The girls were returned to their parents unharmed and Azzopardi was charged with two counts of child stealing.
In the months after her arrest, she was charged with dozens more offences, including three more counts of child stealing, obtaining property by deception and theft.
Azzopardi previously indicated she would fight the 55 charges.
Six witnesses were due to give evidence – including Australian basketball star Tom Jervis and his wife, Jazze Jervis, who hired the 31-year-old as an au pair several years ago.
However, her lawyer, Jessica Willard, told the court last month that the matter had been resolved. Prosecutor Kristie Churchill also told the court that she understood Azzopardi intends to plead guilty to three counts of child stealing.
These relate to the two children in Bendigo, and a third child who Azzopardi allegedly took in 2019.
Azzopardi allegedly duped the young girl by pretending to be a talent scout called Marley and offering her a place in a mentoring program.
Police alleged that while the girl was in her care, Azzopardi took her to the Royal Melbourne Hospital, the office of Victoria Legal Aid and to a Centrelink office interstate.
Court documents say Azzopardi “by fraud took a child under the age of 16 years with intent to deprive the mother, step-father, father and step-mother of the possession” of the girl.
The court was also told last month that Azzopardi intends to plead guilty to handling stolen goods – which relates to Ms Jervis’ driver’s licence – the theft of an iPad and obtaining property by deception.
She will also plead guilty to making false reports to Victoria Police about “child welfare concerns and physical assaults” between July 9 and November 1, 2019.
The remaining charges, which included two counts of child stealing, will be withdrawn by the prosecution.
Azzopardi was arrested and sentenced in July 2017 to one year in jail after pleading guilty to four charges of dishonestly obtaining financial advantage by deception.
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