Campbelltown woman jailed for claiming to be sex-trafficking victim

A Campbelltown-raised conwoman whose seven years of scams in three continents cost charities and governments close to $700,000 has been sentenced to at least six months in jail.

Samantha Azzopardi, 28, pushed her luck too far this year when she posed as a 13-year-old Sydney high school student named Harper Hart and repeated a lie that had previously fooled authorities in Ireland and Canada.

Samantha Azzopardi pretended to be a 13-year-old Sydney high school student named Harper Hart: Photo Calgary Police

Samantha Azzopardi pretended to be a 13-year-old Sydney high school student named Harper Hart: Photo Calgary Police

Azzopardi, who grew up in Campbelltown and went to Mount Annan High School, claimed she was a child sex-trafficking victim but, when authorities investigated, they realised she wasn't what she seemed.

She pleaded guilty in June to four fraud offences.

Appearing at Hornsby Local Court via video link on Wednesday, she was sentenced to a maximum of one year in jail.

Her lies cost NSW charities and government departments more than $155,000, a figure updated from an initial calculation of $20,000.

From 2010, Azzopardi ran scams in Queensland and Western Australia but she only became notorious in 2013 when she was found wandering the streets of Dublin and duped authorities into thinking she was a teenage sex-trafficking victim from eastern Europe.

Hornsby Local Court heard that Irish authorities spent more than $400,000 trying to establish who she was and where she had come from.

She was eventually deported to Australia but, in September 2014, using the alias Aurora Hepburn, Azzopardi walked into a clinic in Canada claiming she was 14 and had been a victim of an abduction, sexual assault and torture.

Canadian authorities spent $150,000 on their investigation before realising she was the same woman at the centre of the Dublin saga.

Azzopardi was charged with public mischief in Calgary and faced a maximum sentence of five years in prison but, after pleading guilty, she was sentenced to the two months she'd already served in custody.

Again she was sent home to Australia.

Magistrate Philip Cox said on Wednesday it was clear that Azzopardi suffered "significant mental health issues".

"One might wonder as to the likelihood of improvement down the track," he said.

The Sydney court heard she had used a fake Californian birth certificate to trick NSW authorities into thinking she was still a teenager.

She was given an iPad, a phone and Opal card from the not-for-profit Burdekin House, an ambulance transfer paid for by Good Shepherd Australia and medication from the NSW Department of Family and Community Services.

The $155,000 cost of her frauds included counselling costs and wages.

Outside court, Azzopardi's mother, who did not want to be identified, said her daughter was a "sweet, adventurous and independent" child growing up.

The situation her daughter now found herself in was "heartbreaking", she added.

Azzopardi worked at the Campbelltown Pancakes on the Rocks after finishing school and in 2013 was described by her boss as "a lovely girl who had issues".

Azzopardi, whose sentence has been backdated to June, will be eligible for parole in late November.

AAP with Rachel Browne

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