Addict let off repaying swindled woman

Last updated 05:00 24/06/2014

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A drug addict who fleeced a woman out of more than $34,000 has been told by a judge that he does not have to repay her because it would take too long.

Instead, Shane Harwood, 32, will serve home detention after appearing for sentencing in Masterton District Court yesterday on a charge of tricking the woman into giving him cash totalling $34,588. He told police he needed the money for drugs.

The woman, whose name was suppressed because publication of it would add to her embarrassment, read an emotional statement to the court, detailing the impact on her of Harwood's "ruthless, planned, deliberate, harrowing, constant and relentless" actions.

Harwood and the woman met in late 2011 when they began a business arrangement and for the next 18 months he continually deceived her into giving him cash.

At first he claimed he needed money for a child custody court battle, which, in reality, had already finished.

He said his grandmother had died and he would pay the woman back with the inheritance. He then wrote two letters purportedly from a fictional builder asking the woman for money to employ Harwood as an apprentice.

The woman said she was devastated she had given in to hundreds of text messages from Harwood, up to 10 a day, forming "a lengthy and elaborate pile of interwoven lies".

Now nearing retirement, she hoped the court would order Harwood to repay the money, even if it took him 30 years. "I expect to be repaid, [even though] I will be in my 90s."

Judge Peter Butler said he could make a reparation order only where there was a prospect of it being paid back "in a reasonable time". This was impossible in Harwood's case, since he had no assets, no job and no savings.

"This is hard news for [the victim] as she needs the funds for her impending retirement."

The fact the victim was left "unrecompensed" should be denounced, but Harwood should also get credit for admitting his guilt, the judge said.

He sentenced him to seven months' home detention at a Masterton address, followed by six months' supervision.

After the case, the woman said: "Of course I'm disappointed with regards to what the judge said about reparation. He [Harwood] could have made a token effort . . .

"If he [the judge] can't do reparation because of legislation, it needs to be changed. These people need to be accountable - I don't care if it takes 30 years, even if it's just $5 out of his benefit every week."

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- The Dominion Post

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