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Guy Campbell Silcock's fleeting apology was met with icy stares from the 10 "Silcock survivors" who were in the North Shore District Court public gallery yesterday to see him sentenced to three years' jail.
Between 2009 and 2013, using various aliases, the 40-year-old ripped off about dozen victims he was supposed to do landscaping work for, many of whom were elderly or vulnerable.
He also used worthless cheques to buy power tools, which he would pawn for cash.
Silcock's deception was worth more than $27,000, but yesterday he sprang a surprise when he produced cheques worth $26,000 to repay his victims. The money was from supporters of his, the court was told.
After an initial batch of offending, some of which he admitted, Silcock was bailed. But he continued ripping people off.
Judge Roy Wade said Silcock would place ads in newspapers, which his victims responded to.
He would tell them a big contract had just fallen through and he had men on hand waiting to start work. He would give an attractive quote and ask for a cash deposit.
Once that was paid, that was it - he wouldn't do any work and the victims were left out of pocket.
"You cynically made promise after promise after promise to attend the very next day and your excuses for failing to attend were almost innumerable. They included illness, vehicle breakdowns, a bad back, inclement weather and unable to source material," the judge told Silcock.
"You have amply demonstrated that you are extremely manipulative. You have put forward excuse after excuse to try to delay you being held to account."
Silcock defended charges laid over his most recent offending at a 7-day hearing where the judge said he made "absurd" claims that victims had got together to make false allegations and that he had completed work for the victims, but they were not home at the time and hadn't noticed.
He also went through several lawyers, and said he pleaded guilty to other charges only because of poor legal advice.
"He was breathtakingly arrogant throughout proceedings," the judge said of Silcock.
Judge Wade rejected any notions of remorse, but gave Silcock some discount in his prison term for stumping up with cash.
Defence lawyer Maria Mortimer said Silcock was suffering post traumatic stress disorder following the death of his mother in 2009. Since then a gambling addiction "spiralled out of control".
She said the two months he had spent in custody awaiting sentence were "horrendous" and she suggested home detention might be appropriate on the 23 charges of obtaining and causing loss by deception.
That would allow Silcock to work and look after his ailing father. Judge Wade disagreed.
In an unusual move at the end of the sentencing the judge praised the work of police prosecutor Adam Pell and Constable Don Henderson in bringing Silcock to account.
In the public gallery, the "Silcock survivors", as they described themselves, applauded the outcome.
Silcock has a further court appearance next month on a charge of perverting the cause of justice after allegedly showing the court false receipts purporting to show he had bought some material for the jobs.
Andrea Dixon: "The reparation's good but it's disappointing it's not his money. He's taking advantage of his father again."
Ms Dixon wasn't fussed about repayment anyway. "It's about stopping him and letting the community know."
Gail Mazur: "I was happy with three years. I never thought we'd get any money. It was an added bonus."