Within hours of meeting Christopher Collins on Tinder, he had swindled thousands of dollars off a Melbourne woman.
But that was just the beginning of her nightmare.
Weeks of manipulation followed, including threats of blackmail. And then, a lengthy legal process.
Collins, 33, pleaded guilty to 24 charges including financial deception offences, fraud and theft and was sentenced to 22 months in prison on Friday.
He stole more than $100,000 from three women he met online from January 2020 to January 2021.
Collins remained silent when he appeared by video link from prison in Melbourne Magistrates Court on Friday.
The court heard he had just completed an 18-month community work order for similar offending – stealing money from women he met online and using it for gambling – when he began stealing from a woman on January 3, 2020.
The woman, who spoke to AAP, said Collins had left her physically, mentally, emotionally and financially “ruined”.
“It was a nightmare,” she said.
She met Collins on Tinder, where he went by the name CJ.
They chatted about sport and he said he was a professional gambler. She invited him over to watch some cricket, which was when the scamming began.
Collins encouraged her to put money on a “sure bet” and convinced her to open new online betting accounts.
Then they went to a Richmond pub, where Collins sat in a dark corner with her phone after she went to the dancefloor. Within 20 minutes he had transferred $96,000 from her bank accounts and moved $72,000 into betting accounts.
After they went home together, he stole her credit card while she was sleeping and used it to pay for a taxi and then drinks at a strip club in Melbourne CBD.
When she confronted him, he manipulated her and threatened to send a damaging video of her if she went to police. He sent her messages pretending to be his mother, told her she owed money to bikies and threatened suicide.
She became frightened, worried and confused.
“That confusion and sense of urgency, that’s not a scenario that I’ve ever been in, and you don’t know how you’ll deal with it,” she told AAP.
She’s been unable to recover $45,000 of the money he stole from her and has spent almost $15,000 on lawyers as the legal process dragged on.
‘Brazen and cunning’
“It’s had such a detrimental impact on me emotionally, mentally, physically, since it all occurred,” she said.
“I’m a senior executive, I’m street savvy, no way did I ever think this would happen to me and have the ongoing long-term effects it has.”
Another victim, a single mother of four, told the court she had to survive on handouts for months after the offending.
She has lost trust in men and has not dated anyone since she met Collins.
Magistrate Cecily Hollingworth described Collins’ behaviour as “brazen and cunning” and said it showed his lack of respect for women.
“You could have stopped, you could have desisted at any stage but you continued to defraud these women,” she said.
“You exploited women that you knew had limited means.”
Collins must spend 16 months in prison before he becomes eligible for parole. He has already served more than 10 months in pre-sentence detention.
He has paid back $10,000 to the court.
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