Couple jailed for swindling vulnerable man out of €46,600

A couple from Marsascala have been jailed after a court found them guilty of taking advantage of a vulnerable man and swindling him out of a staggering €46,600

A couple from Marsascala have been jailed after a court found them guilty of taking advantage of a vulnerable man and swindling him out of a staggering €46,600.

41-year-old Joanne Ellul and 34-year-old Reno Azzopardi were convicted of fraud and misappropriation by magistrate Ian Farrugia.

Ellul was jailed for two and a half years, whilst her partner, Azzopardi was sentenced to three years of imprisonment. 

The court heard how the victim had moved in with the accused, after separating from his wife in 2004. The couple were drug users and Ellul would at times resort to prostitution to finance her habit.

As time passed, he had started to trust them and had eventually rented a pastizzi shop, leaving the running of the business to the couple, whilst he financed the operation. All of this was done by verbal agreement.

Starting in 2006, Azzopardi had started asking the victim for large amounts of money without an explanation, and the victim had obliged. It later emerged that Azzopardi had bought a motorcycle and two cars with the money.

The couple had also convinced their victim that they needed LM4,500 (€10,482) for a promise of sale on a premises in Paola. None of this was true, however.

Over time and on various false premises, the victim said, he had given the couple around €46,600. They had also withheld his ID card and bank cards with the excuse that he would probably lose them. He said he had never asked for the money back but had later filed a police report on the insistence of his family members.

He explained that he had felt unable to live alone and had lived with the couple, who would cook for him. They had taken a sum of money to buy a property in which they would take care of him but instead had used it to purchase the vehicles.

The court said that a lot of the time the legal relationship between the two parties was one of civil debt, even if the money was not returned.

But there were other occasions, where it was certain that the couple’s behaviour had given rise to the crime of misappropriation, for example, the vehicle purchases.

In its sentence, the court took into account the fact that the accused had been addicted to drugs and Ellul had been trapped in a cycle of prostitution but also said that it could not ignore the serious abuse of the man’s vulnerability.

Joanne Ellul was condemned to two and a half years in prison, whilst Reno Azzopardi was jailed for three years, as he had also breached a court order.

Inspector Maurice Curmi prosecuted.

More in National