Sat, Sep 23, 2006 - Page 4 News List

Australian identity-pincher sentenced to four years in jail

CLINKER-BOUND The woman whom the police dubbed the `Catch Me if You Can' thief was given the punishment for her imaginative con jobs

AP , SYDNEY

An Australian woman who posed as a businesswoman, a doctor and a mobster's niece to steal thou-sands of dollars, and evaded police for months, was sentenced on Friday to four years in jail.

Dubbed the "Catch Me If You Can" thief by police, Jody Harris, 28, was arrested in July after an intense search spanning three states.

She was eventually charged with around 130 counts relating to identity fraud and theft.

Police said Harris fooled her alleged victims into believing she was a doctor, a police officer, a businesswoman and the niece of a known underworld figure before stealing their identities and robbing them.

Harris eluded arrest for more than a year, frequently changing her appearance and taunting police with repeated phone calls and false promises to surrender.

Harris pleaded guilty last week before Sydney's Central Local court to 43 of 124 counts of identity fraud, and was sentenced on Friday to four years in jail. She will be eligible for parole in January 2010.

She was also ordered to pay compensation of more than A$175,000 (US$132,267) to financial institutions affected by her scams.

Officers in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland states eventually nicknamed her after the 2002 film in which Leonardo DiCaprio stars as a smooth-talking con-man who robs his unwitting victims by pretending to be a doctor, a lawyer and an airline pilot.

Documents submitted to the court at the time of her arrest alleged that Harris used the money to fund her lavish lifestyle, buying designer hair accessories, a diamond watch and a A$1,652 poodle.

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