A disturbed woman who created bizarre and false identities as a nanny, a talent scout and a pregnant and abused teen is a pathological liar at high risk of reoffending, a Melbourne court has found.
Samantha Azzopardi, who created false backstories for herself around the world, was sentenced on Friday to two years in prison in Victoria over her latest inventions.
The 32-year-old’s criminal history of deception dates back more than a decade and includes high-profile international scams.
This sentence comes after she admitted charges of child stealing, having pretended to be an experienced and highly recommended au pair.
Based on false recommendations, she was hired by Victorian couple Jazze and Tom Jervis, who mistakenly believed she was a qualified live-in nanny named Harper Hernandez.
Melbourne magistrate Johanna Metcalf said Azzopardi’s deceptions were prolonged and a gross breach of trust.
A second elaborate talent scout ruse involved Azzopardi, using the name Marley, cultivating a relationship with a 12-year-old girl who auditioned for a role advertised by an agency where Azzopardi claimed to work.
Azzopardi claimed to be mentoring the girl for a television show and took the girl – with her mother’s falsely obtained permission – to Sydney to audition. She told the girl to go into a Centrelink office and tell a woman a bizarre tale about a ghost. Azzopardi then sent the girl home alone on a train.
“The deceptions in this case were a gross breach of trust towards the child, a 12-year-old girl who believed you were helping to realise her acting ambitions,” Metcalf said.
She tried her au pair ruse again later on a newly arrived family in Australia. After seeking permission to take the couple’s two young children on a picnic to the You Yangs, she instead went with them to Bendigo.
While there she went to Headspace, a youth mental health organisation, claiming to be a 14-year-old pregnant schoolgirl who had been abused by her uncle. That deception went on for months with police launching a lengthy and laborious investigation.
Bendigo police arrested Azzopardi after she caught the attention of social media. She refused to answer to her real name and would not tell officers who the young children were. She eventually gave officers enough clues to reunite the children with their parents.
Azzopardi has a long history of dishonesty offences. In 2013 she showed up in central Dublin claiming to be a teenage sex-trafficking victim from eastern Europe. It cost the Irish government hundreds of thousands of dollars before her true identity was exposed.
After being deported she emerged in Canada, where she said she was a victim of sexual assault and torture.
In Australia, she convinced a Perth family she was a Russian gymnast named Emily whose entire family had been killed in a murder-suicide in France. In Sydney she passed herself off as a schoolgirl more than half her age.
Azzopardi has criminal convictions for dishonesty offences in Queensland, Western Australia and New South Wales, as well as for commonwealth offences.
Experts told the court Azzopardi had experienced a highly traumatic upbringing including emotional neglect and physical abuse. Psychiatrist Jacqueline Rakov assessed her this year and found she had a severe personality disorder and pseudologia fantastica, a “rare but dramatic” psychiatric disorder involving an “extreme type of lying”.
Rakov found Azzopardi was at high risk of reoffending if left to her own devices, but low risk if she willingly engaged in long-term and ongoing therapy.
Metcalf said Azzopardi was clearly a disturbed young woman and sentenced her to two years behind bars, but said she would be eligible for release on parole – on conditions including that she receive appropriate mental health treatment – after 12 maande.
Azzopardi is immediately eligible for release having served 574 days in custody. Before Victoria’s lockdown she expressed plans to immediately travel to northern NSW.