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A Dunedin man blew $80,000 of his father’s nest egg on drugs while the victim became increasingly ravaged by dementia, a court has heard.
Michael Patrick Hessian (54) appeared before the Dunedin District Court this week, where Judge Peter Rollo sentenced him to 18 months’ imprisonment on a charge of dishonestly accessing a computer and two of breaching home detention.
Counsel Noel Rayner said his client was keen to re-establish a relationship with his father but accepted scamming the ailing man was “a serious breach of trust”.
The three-month rip-off began while Hessian was living with the victim in May last year, but since then the man’s condition had deteriorated and he was now living in a care facility.
The court heard he was now fearful of those around him and paranoid about their integrity.
Hessian had been his father’s caregiver for five years before the theft started.
When last year’s lockdown struck, the victim had to set up electronic banking to control his funds.
His son, with “no particular sophistication”, Mr Rayner said, gained access to the online accounts and transferred $84,928 through several transactions.
“All these payments were unauthorised and unknown to the victim,” a police summary said.
Judge Rollo said there was a clear suggestion Hessian had spent the cash on a drug binge.
He had dozens of dishonesty convictions to his name, spanning decades of criminality.
Previous Otago Daily Times stories detailed a trail of deception over the years, which included low-level thefts of chocolate and clothing items as recently as 2018.
Hessian made headlines in 2012 when he was found guilty of smashing his way into a Geraldine hardware story and making off with $4000 of goods.
Earlier, in 2010, he racked up 11 convictions before the Alexandra District Court which included receiving stolen goods and scamming a business out of $1600.
On that occasion, the judge was told the fraudster planned to attend residential drug rehabilitation in Christchurch once he was released from prison.
It is unclear if that ever eventuated.
In September last year, once Hessian’s bank fraud was uncovered, his siblings and the family lawyer intervened.
The defendant signed an “acknowledgement of debt”, which meant the theft would be taken into account once the victim’s estate was divided.
Because of the time Hessian has spent in custody, it is likely he will be released from prison before Christmas.