Man jailed for rape and scamming £214,000 from ex-partners

Police Scotland Christopher HarkinsPolice Scotland

Harkins, 37, took amounts from his victims ranging between £350 and £72,525

A rapist who abused and scammed £214,000 from nine women he met online has been jailed for 12 years.

Christopher Harkins, 37, used Facebook and the dating app Tinder to target his victims across Scotland over a six-year period.

The gambling addict stole some of the women’s identities to access payday loans and forced one to create an online betting account in her name.

A court heard Harkins pretended his bank account had been frozen and told his victims he needed money to keep his business going.

He took amounts ranging between £350 and £72,525 and also requested cash from some women to book non-existent holidays.

Police Scotland described the conman as a “violent and contemptible individual”.

Harkins, of Helensburgh, Argyll and Bute, earlier pled guilty in the High Court at Paisley to 11 frauds.

He was also found guilty after trial of raping a victim while she slept, assault to the danger of life and four sexual offences.

The crimes were committed in Glasgow, Paisley, Lanarkshire, Inverclyde, Stirling, Edinburgh, West Lothian and London between 2013 and 2019.

Getty Tinder appGetty

Harkins, 37, used the dating app Tinder and Facebook to target his victims across Scotland over a six-year period

Harkins was previously jailed for 15 months last year for defrauding £16,000 from a financial worker he met online, after convincing her he owned his own currency exchange and would pay her back.

He was sentenced for his latest crimes at the High Court in Kilmarnock on Wednesday.

Judge Alistair Watson told Harkins he had targeted single females on dating websites and worked to gain their trust.

The conman portrayed himself as a successful businessman before inventing stories as to why he needed short-term cash loans.

The judge said some women borrowed money to help him while others lent him their life savings.

He added: “Once you had achieved your aim with each victim you moved on to the next, and you repeated that process, leaving a trail of emotional devastation and financial distress in your wake.

“The degree of harm caused by you is extremely high.

“Many of your victims were deprived of all or some of their personal savings, leaving some in financial difficulty.”

‘Devastating psychological effect’

Judge Watson said Harkins’ “romance scam” was a calculated ploy to exploit his victims.

He added: “It is self-evident that this particular type of fraud is likely to have a devastating psychological effect on the victims, quite apart from any financial loss to them.

“I have taken time to read the victim impact statements provided by a number of the victims of these crimes.

“They describe in detail the feelings of shame, humiliation, stress and exhaustion suffered as a consequence of your course of criminal conduct.”

He told the court background reports described conduct “designed to exert power and influence over women”.

Harkins was served with indefinite non-harassment orders for each victim, banning him from approaching within 100m of them.

He was also placed on the sex offenders register indefinitely.

After the sentencing, Det Ch Insp Lyndsay Laird said: “Christopher Harkins is a violent and contemptible individual who preyed on woman looking for love and companionship.

“He made them believe they were in a loving and exclusive relationship but that was nowhere near the truth.”

The senior officer said the conman’s only motive was money and once he formed relationships he turned to “manipulation, threats, coercive control and violence” to fund his lavish lifestyle.

Det Ch Insp Laird added: “The fact that he was convicted is a tremendous credit to the women who came forward to police.”

“This case highlights that domestic abuse is not just physical or sexual, it includes abusive behaviours or financial abuse.

“It is often about power and control and can have life changing consequences for victims.”

Source link