Gambler Swindles $500K From Priest

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AN elderly Catholic priest was conned into handing over nearly $500,000 to a drug-using gambler, a court has heard.


Using fake documents and sad stories, Olivia Raymond convinced 83-year-old Father Paul Kane to hand over nearly $400,000 from accounts belonging to St Matthew's Parish in the north Melbourne suburb of North Fawkner.


She also conned the priest out of nearly $50,000 of his own money - much of his life savings.

Raymond used excuses including that her mother had died and that she had had cancer surgery.


She told her "vulnerable" and "unworldly" victim she would soon obtain a cheque for $360,000.


Her mother sat in the Victorian County Court today as Raymond pleaded guilty to five counts of obtaining property by deception and one of making a false document.


The money, which she stole over a period of approximately two years, was used for gambling and drugs.


Victoria's chief Crown Prosecutor Gavin Silbert, SC, asked Judge Howard Mason to jail Raymond, 31, of Epping, for between three and five years.

He said the priest was a "very vulnerable" and unworldly elderly man.


"She has clearly managed to take him for one very large ride," Mr Silbert said.


Mr Silbert said in 2005 Raymond went to the parish door upset and asking for cash.


She was given $20 by the priest.


Raymond returned and began regularly asking for cash.


Mr Silbert said she told the priest if he did not keep giving her money he would not see any of it back.


She told the priest she had a debt to pay to her ex-husband and unless the priest continued to pay her she would not pay him back.


Raymond received $197,000 from an account containing proceeds from hire of the church hall and $107,000 from an account the priest opened in 1965 that contained money from parishioners.


She also wrote notes to the priest asking for money.


In one note she wrote: "Three guys have tortured my life. They broke into my house and trashed it."


In another she said: "Father Paul, I understand what you have said about no cash in accounts. I have broken promise after promise to you. I am aware of the figure please trust me."


She urged him to give her $8,500 and put an end to it: "I will never knock on your door again".


Raymond's lawyer Chris McLennan said his client had not hidden any of the money away, but spent it on gambling and drugs.


He conceded Raymond would be sentenced to immediate imprisonment.


"Your Honour there is obviously no prospect of the money ever being repaid," he said.


Judge Mason said the offending might be described as "particularly callous acts".


He remanded Raymond, who is also known as Melissa Edgell, in custody to be sentenced at a date to be fixed. 


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