Conman's victims 'tip of the iceberg'
Numerous other victims of conman Steven Francis Younger could be too embarrassed to come forward.
A group of people fleeced by the former Stratford man gathered outside the New Plymouth courthouse yesterday after he was sentenced to 28 months' imprisonment.
They told the Taranaki Daily News they were just the tip of the iceberg.
Younger, 45, was jailed yesterday for ripping off three elderly people of almost $300,000 - most of their life savings.
He is yet to be resentenced for similar offending after failing to make full reparation.
The angry group outside the courthouse included Younger's cousin by marriage Shona How Gatenby and Stratford Antonio Mews Motel owner Grant Johnson, who allege Younger has many more victims.
But the others, mostly from the Eltham area, are too embarrassed to go to police to tell how they too were taken in by the smooth-talking operator, they say.
Mrs Gatenby said she was "absolutely disgusted" with the sentence. "It should be much longer."
She and her husband had loaned Younger and his wife Judith $50,000 for a new farming venture in the Waikato to give them an opportunity to better themselves.
"They lied to us. They stole our trust. It's as if they raped us. It's affected us hugely," she said.
Legal advice is that they can do nothing to get their money back.
The court heard Younger found ways to befriend people, get their money off them to gamble on the horses and live the high life, stealing from one to pay the other back.
In sentencing, Judge Gerard Lynch described the offending as "unspeakably sad".
"You are a family and church man but you are dishonest through and through," he told Younger. The harm caused to his elderly victims in fleecing them of their nest eggs was premeditated, "bleeding them of their hard-earned cash".
"These were older people and trusting people."
One victim prided himself on being a confident person who could read people.
"You are the only one he got so wrong."
The victim was now suspicious and paranoid and would struggle for the rest of his life after Younger took 85 per cent of his savings, the judge said.
His other male victim felt the same, suffering sleepless nights and losing trust in people. He considered Younger was a friend.
The offending was the hardest thing he had to deal with in his life, the victim said in his impact statement.
The judge said Younger had experienced financial pressures believing he would be able to repay his victims through a big win. He had been gambling $1000 a week but was "too proud or too stupid" to get help.
Younger used the money he fleeced to pay victims from his earlier offending, the judge said.
"That is so offensive it nearly defies expression."
The judge reduced the sentence start point of three years six months by 25 per cent for Younger's guilty plea and to recognise he had spared three elderly people the trauma of trial.
Younger was sentenced to 28 months' jail and ordered to pay full reparation but the judge warned the victims they should not have high hopes.
Younger's lawyer Kylie Pascoe said despite her client being on remand in prison for the last eight months, he had attended a restorative justice conference with one victim to whom he expressed his remorse and wrote letters to the other two.
The victim who attended the conference found the process very worthwhile, Ms Pascoe said.
Younger had also started counselling for gambling.
Crown prosecutor Nina Elliott called for a sentencing start point of 2 to four years' jail because of the high degree of premeditation and gross breach of trust.
Taranaki Daily News