A former Taranaki man is unlikely to see a single penny of the $800,000 he paid to an Australian dating agency in the hope of finding a partner.
Alan Young, a former financial planner at the Taranaki Regional Council, is now destitute and living with his daughter after falling victim to True Love Corp, a company dubbed "the romance robbers" by the Australian media.
A ruling by the New South Wales Supreme Court has ordered the firm's directors to pay back A$683,145 (NZ$862,400) to Mr Young.
However, the company directors are bankrupt and their victims are unlikely to get their money back.
Efforts by the Taranaki Daily News to contact Mr Young were unsuccessful yesterday.
Mr Young, who lived in Westown, New Plymouth, retired from the council in September.
Yesterday a council spokesman declined to discuss Mr Young.
"Out of respect for the person concerned, the council will not provide any personal information to news media, or make any public comment."
From Australia's Sunshine Coast, Mr Young's daughter, Jo, said what happened to her father had changed their whole lives.
"All of his shares and his life savings and house [are gone] and he came to live with me.
"My mum had cancer. She had just died and they [True Love Corp] took someone who was really vulnerable."
Mr Young's situation was revealed in a court prosecution of True Love Corp.
Mr Young signed up with the dating agency in 2006 after he answered an advertisement in the personal columns of the Taranaki Daily News following the death of his wife.
Mr Young and 10 others have since complained to the New South Wales Fair Trading Commission which successfully prosecuted the dating agency.
In November the NSW Supreme Court ruled that former True Love bosses husband and wife Zivko and Helen Dimitrijevski must pay compensation of $A1,123,095 to the vulnerable clients they exploited.
Hollie Veall, a former True Love co-director, was ordered to pay $A342,050.
Mr Young knew Ms Veall as Angie Jovic and believed they were engaged to be married after she accepted his marriage proposal in January 2007.
He paid her hundreds of thousands of dollars after she promised him she would repay the money.
"Angie Jovic" used family illness or disputes as excuses for not meeting him in Melbourne.
He spent more than $400,000 providing assistance to "Jovic" including borrowing $120,000 from his mother who died the same year.
When he flew to the Gold Coast to meet her he found Jovic's appearance and personality were different. She said it was due to the stress of a family dispute.
In 2008 Jovic met Mr Young in New Zealand but insisted on separate bedrooms as she had "promised my dear departed mother that I would not have sex until I married you".
The same year he went to Brisbane to marry her but he was told she had gone to Melbourne to see her lawyer. When Mr Young flew to Melbourne he got a phone call from Jovic telling him she was flying to the United States where her daughter had been in a car accident.
When he contacted True Love Corp he recognised the voice of the woman who answered the phone as Jovic but she said she was Hollie Veall, a director of True Love.
NSW Fair Trading Commission Rod Stowe described True Love's conduct as despicable in that the three directors targeted lonely and vulnerable people.
"These people put their trust in a company which took advantage of their vulnerable situation and milked them for every dollar they could get, leaving them destitute and dateless."
He hoped other ruthless operators in the dating game would take note of the landmark decision against them.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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