THE Sydney lonely hearts fraudster who swindled about $2 million from lonely men she’d met through dating services has been sentenced to three-and-a-half years behind bars.
Sanaa Derbas, 42, last year pleaded guilty to 11 fraud-related offences after tricking the seven victims into lending her money which she used to fund her gambling and cocaine habits, and to build a house.
Between 2008 and 2014, the Sydney mother of four told the men she had a wealthy Egyptian grandfather but in order to receive his wire transfers she needed money for taxes, bank charges and solicitor’s fees.
Using a series of aliases, 15 phones and online dating services, she spun a web of lies which left one man with just $20 in his bank account, and another unable to pay for his children’s school fees.
The victims initially transferred money to Derbas for hotel rooms before she offered excuses for not meeting them, including sick relatives and various calamities.
As her lies became increasingly elaborate, Derbas posed as different relatives who contacted the victims.
Derbas told one man her young son had died of swine flu, while she requested money from others to pay for her dead mother’s funeral.
Crown prosecutor Eric Balodis said Derbas may have been unable to control her gambling, but her moral culpability with respect to the fraud was quite different.
“It’s calculated and controlled,” he told Sydney’s Downing Centre District Court on Thursday.
Defence barrister Greg Jones said his client liquidated all her assets to pay back the money and worked seven days a week to support four children. She also acted as a carer for her mother and brother, who had a mental disability, Mr Jones added.
“There has been a substantial change in her life and her environment since these matters in 2008,” he said.
In sentencing Derbas, Judge Paul Conlon said her “intricate web of lies” demonstrated a talent for impersonation.
Her offending involved “calculated cunning and guile” and she was “utterly determined” to bleed victims of funds, he said.
“Those she targeted were largely vulnerable people,” Judge Conlon said. “The victims were all simple men who lost sums of money that was, of course, significant to them.” Derbas was handed a three-and-a-half-year sentence with a non-parole period of 18 months.
She began sobbing in the dock and pleaded with the judge as a large contingent of family members looked on.
The courtroom became tense when a young family member threatened the media.