Fraud cop ‘forced to eat rotten meat’
A Victoria Police sergeant was finding vacant homes already owned by other people, renting them out, and pocketing the money, until she was caught by the state's anti-corruption body.
Rosa Rossi, 57, of Corio, was sentenced to four years and six months imprisonment with two years and four months non-parole in the County Court of Victoria on Wednesday.
Judge Martine Marich said Rossi's "traumatic" childhood in which her father forced her to eat rotten meat among a litany of abusive acts had impacted her for the rest of her life, including up to when she began the "brazen" offending.
Judge Marich said the bold scheme began in April 2016 when Rossi identified an empty property in the regional town of Willaura.
The owner had left the home empty while she went to look after ill son in another state, Judge Marich said.
The owner left her furniture and belongings in the house, not thinking a police officer would take it over without her knowledge and change the locks.
"The (impact) of your frauds does not lie in actual financial loss to the victims, it is the profound violation of their proprietary and personal rights," Judge Marich said.
Rossi's next target was another Willaura home, which had become vacant because of the owners' work commitments.
"The owners became aware that someone had occupied their house when contacted by a neighbour and reported the matter to Ararat police," court documents state.
"The owners then discovered that the locks had been changed on the front and back security doors and deadlocks placed on the internal wooden doors.
"A number of personal items were also missing and cleaning equipment was outside."
In June 2016 her third scam was executed on a home in Chadstone, which she advertised for rent at $420 per week and found an unsuspecting couple to sign a fraudulent lease.
By April of the following year she had appointed a property manager for the home that was not hers.
"A short time later, the owner returned to Australia and realised that someone was living in the house," court documents state.
She pulled a similar stunt on a home in Malvern, a third Willaura property, and a house in the Melbourne suburb of Brooklyn, before the IBAC investigation began in April 2017.
Judge Marich said there were family heirlooms in some of the homes, and one of the victims had told her he "experienced the full gamut of emotions" during the bizarre ordeal.
"You invaded his privacy, and you had full access to his most personal possessions," she said.
"Some things that were in his house seemed to have disappeared that were sentimental to him, like old family photos, school awards, work awards, certificates and an old briefcase."
Judge Marich said Rossi's childhood was defined by violence from her father, with frequent "rage and tantrums" over "minor violations of his high standards".
She was forced to eat rotten meat and denied clothing and necessities as well as physical attacks, a court-appointed psychologist had told the judge.
Rossi worked several jobs to support her mother after her parents divorced when she was 28, and her mother's "increasingly unreasonable and extravagant" demands escalated to her taking legal action against her daughter which forced Rossi into bankruptcy, Judge Marich said.
Her parents behaviour had a "profound" impact and she lived a life of "powerlessness, shame and fear", Judge Marich said.
But she said the crimes she had committed were serious.
Rossi joined the police force in 1994 and rose to the rank of sergeant, and is the first female police officer to be jailed in Victoria.
*For 24-hour domestic violence support call the national hotline 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or MensLine on 1800 600 636.
Originally published as Jailed cop 'forced to eat rotten meat'