IN COURT: Lovestruck retiree sent $170k to scammer
A LONELY retiree, who gave $170,000 to a scammer masquerading as her online boyfriend, has fronted court for fraud.
Errioll Ann Witney, 66, had already sent $90,000 to a man she had never met in person when two large sums were wrongly deposited into her account.
Rather than flag the suspicious transactions with her financial planner, Witney not only held onto the money but also forwarded a further $80,000 to the man she knew as Brian.
Hervey Bay District Court heard on Wednesday, Witney, who appeared visibly embarrassed in the dock, was lonely and suffering from depression when she signed up to internet dating site RSVP in 2013.
She soon met Brian who claimed to live in Sydney and told her he was going to Malaysia to sell stones.
It wasn't long before he asked Witney to cover his travel costs including duty tax fees.
Witney initially questioned Brian's requests, but through regular contact, he gained her trust.
Believing they would soon meet in person, Witney complied and sent him $90,000.
In January 2016, two deposits equalling $169,466.90 were accidentally made into Witney's account, taken from a trust fund a mother had set up for her disabled daughter.
This was the result of a forged email, however Witney had no role in that.
Witney sent money to accounts in Malaysia and Ireland and kept $10,500 in cash for herself.
She later returned her cash but the rest - and Brian - were never traced.
Judge John Robertson said Witney was also a victim of an "internet criminal" and the entire ordeal was a "sad, sad case".
The court heard Witney was threatened by Brian, and despite feeling "stupid" continued under his instruction.
She was sentenced to two and a half years in jail, wholly suspended.