Scammer-of-the-elderly does it again

A woman who was jailed for phone scamming the elderly has done it again – and this time a 93-year-old woman was one of her victims.

Denise Greig was jailed for 20 months in the Christchurch District Court today, by Judge John Strettell.

Her latest victims have been reimbursed by the banks involved after the scammers raided $50,000 from their accounts. But Judge Strettell declined to order a partial reparations payment by 31-year-old Greig because he said it was not realistic.

In early 2016, police launched Operation Diana to investigate a group of scammers targeting elderly victims by phoning and telling them their power would be cut off because of a bank card problem. After conning the PIN number from the victims, the scammers would usually arrive and exchange a Pressie card for their “faulty” bank card and then clean out the account.

That group, including Greig, ripped off $300,000 from its victims, and she was eventually jailed for 13 months for her role in the scam.

Late in 2016, the police launched Operation Eclipse when they realised that a group was back in action, with an even more complex bank account structure. Greig was out of prison and again involved, apparently using her experience from the previous scheme.

She was arrested and has remained in custody on two charges of causing a loss by deception, two charges of shoplifting, and a breach of her prison release conditions. She pleaded guilty.

Judge Strettell detailed the offending which involved a similar scheme, but with money processed through a layer of “mule” bank accounts. The victims were a 69-year-old couple, and a 93-year-old woman.

Defence counsel Ruth Buddicom acknowledged that Greig had been a “frequent” offender, but she was prepared to make determined efforts to distance herself from her associates. Her offending had been driven by her drug addictions. She had undergone some counselling in prison.

Judge Strettell assessed Greig as being involved at about the “middle level” of the new group. He accepted that she had received only a limited amount of the proceeds from the scams.

“But I take into account the impact that this has on a vulnerable part of society,” he said. “The defendant is a woman with a serious history of dishonesty, based primarily on her dependency on drugs, and that has played a crucial part in her life to date.”

He imposed the 20-month jail term and ruled out home detention even though it was within the range where it could be considered. She will also have six months of release conditions after the sentence.

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