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      Rosa Rossi Fraud

      Female Police Officer Jailed After $2.6 Million: The Law, Defences and Penalties for Fraud

      In one of the most shocking cases of Police misconduct, police Sergeant Rosa Rossi recently became the first Victorian female police officer to be sentenced to jail.

      Rossi pleaded guilty to fraudulently obtaining six properties worth $2.6 million.

      The 57-year-old will spend the next two years and four months in custody before she is eligible for parole. The overall sentence was four years and six months.

      What did Rosa Rossi do?

      Mrs Rossi was initially the subject of an Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission (IBAC) investigation.

      Following these proceedings, she was charged with obtaining property by deception and perjury. She pleaded guilty.

      The County Court heard that Mrs Rossi used the internal Police system to find empty houses where the owners were interstate or overseas and claim them under the law of ‘adverse possession’, also known as squatter’s rights.

      She would then pay locksmiths to attend the houses change the locks.  

      Following this, she would submit a change of address form to the local council so that any mail for the actual owner of the house would be redirected to her. On occasion she would pose as the home owner.

      Two of the properties were rented out by Mrs Rossi, earning her $13,000.

      What is Fraud?

      Fraud is also known as ‘Dishonestly obtain property by deception’. In New South Wales, the offence is set out in Section 192E of the Crimes Act 1900.

      The prosecution are required to prove, beyond reasonable doubt that the Accused:

      1. Committed a deception that was dishonest; and
      2. Due to that deception:
      3. obtained property; or
      4. obtained a financial advantage; or
      5. caused a financial disadvantage.

      The maximum penalty for fraud is 10 years imprisonment.

      Significantly, the prosecution must prove that the Accused knew, or realised the possibility that their act was deceptive and dishonest. For example, an Accused person honestly believed they were entitled to the property or money, they would have a defence to the charge.

      Who were the victims of Rosa Rossi?

      In her remarks on sentence, Judge Martine Marich said:

      “Your conduct involved planning and foresight…These were the owner’s private properties. They were worth significant sums. You violated the sanctity of those properties with your brazen acts.”

      One of the victims was a woman who had been forced to move to Queensland to care for her sick son.

      Another victim was a man who inherited the house after his father had passed away. No doubt the property carried significant sentimental value for him, in addition to the monetary value.

      Perhaps the most brazen example of her dishonesty occurred in 2017 when she attended Hobsons Bay City Council dressed in her police uniform.

      She spoke to a council officer and requested the name of a home owner. The council officer said that the information would be emailed, however Rossi demanded it be given to her immediately.

      She used this information to contact the homeowner, who was in Macau, and tell him that she was a police officer and had received reports of squatters on the property. She also said that she had secured the house and was maintaining it for him.

      Could Rosa Rossi have avoided jail?

      While the charges against Mrs Rossi were serious, there have been other cases of complex fraud which have not resulted in a goal sentence.

      In 2019, a man from New Zealand was found ‘not guilty by reason of mental illness’ of a number of serious fraud charges at Tamworth District Court.

      He was accused of engineering a sophisticated fraud whereby he would complete ASIC registrations for companies and then purchase goods in the company’s name. He purchased a number of laptops and approximately 100 iPhones. The offending was alleged to have occurred over a period of 18 months.

      Despite the degree of planning involved in the offending, his specialist Fraud Lawyers argued that he was “suffering from a defect of the mind such that he could not reason”. The presiding Judge agreed and consequently, he was found ‘not guilty’, the charges were dismissed and the laptops were returned to him.

      During sentencing proceedings Mrs Rossi argued that she suffered “mood disturbance” at the time of the offending. It is unclear whether a possible defence due to mental illness was ever explored by her legal team.

      A pattern of behaviour?

      Since the charges were made public, Mrs Rossi’s family members have alleged that they were themselves victims of her. Robert Marguglio, the younger brother of Rosa Rossi told journalists that the disgraced Police officer forged a Power of Attorney document to take control of his affairs.

      Mr Marguglio stated that he was now homeless and living in a van due to his sister’s actions. He was quoted as saying, “She was dressed in a police uniform, but really she was a crook,”

      Police have now launched a further investigation into Rossi’s actions. A statement from Victoria Police set out that, “Professional Standards Command detectives interviewed a 56-year-old woman in relation to dishonesty-related offences and making and using a false document”.

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