Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Men Show Up Wanting Sex After 'Ex Posted Fake Craigslist ads'

By Mark Duell

(U.S.A.) A jilted boyfriend allegedly placed a series of fake adverts on Craigslist that appeared to be from his pregnant ex-girlfriend asking men for sex.

Andre Flom, 31, of Portland, Oregon, put up ads with her number and address - and up to 20 men would arrive at her home for sex, police said.

Postings under the name of Catlin Moser, 29, said ‘hit me up - I’m super horny’ and that she wanted ‘guys to take turns giving it to me good’.

The posts also asked people to remove a Japanese maple tree and a play structure from her garden, reported the Smoking Gun website.

‘He was posting my name, my phone number and my address on Craigslist for really obscene sex parties,’ Ms Moser told Fox affiliate KPTV. I was having men showing up at my house all hours of the night.'

He even allegedly posted the contact details of Ms Moser’s mother, who said she would get around 100 obscene text messages in five minutes. ‘The kinds of things that were being said were pretty obscene,’ the mother told CBS affiliate KVAL. ‘He'd set up times for them to come over.’

'What's up, my name's Catlin and I’m very real, looking for a sexy guy to come give me what I need, hit me up - I'm super horny'

'Having a party tonight at my house: encourage single guys to come through, lots of beer and single women, here is a recent pic of me, my name's Catlin, let's go boys'

'Hey, so I'm at home bored, lookin for a guy, or guys to take turns givin it to me good'

It began in October after Flom was convicted of domestic violence and more than 35 adverts were posted on the listings website, police said. Flom was convicted of strangling Ms Moser, who has a two-year-old son, last autumn and she won a restraining order against him.

One of the ads included her address, saying: ‘I’m very real, looking for a sexy guy to come give me what I need, hit me up - I’m super horny’. Another said she was ‘sitting at home bored’ wanting men to ‘give it to me good’ and was inviting people who ‘want to get a little dirty’.

Investigators subpoenaed Craigslist to give them records that showed nearly all of the fake adverts came from the same network location.

In a twist, investigators traced this to Flom’s next-door neighbour. But it turned out the man had an unsecured wireless router in his house. Police raided Flom’s home on Tuesday and took away a computer, modem and mobile phones, reported the Smoking Gun.

Flom was charged with computer crime and identity theft and is being held in Multnomah County jail in lieu of posting a $30,000 bond.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Bill Targets Cyber-Impersonation

by Alejandro Martínez-Cabrera

Two months ago, a San Jose Mercury News reporter received a profanity-laced e-mail critical of one of her stories. More than a year before, a similar e-mail was sent to a long mailing list of hundreds of Silicon Valley industry, labor, political and community leaders.

The sender of the e-mails appeared to be Carl Guardino, the chief executive of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, which represents the high-tech industry. The problem: He didn't actually send it.
"This absolutely misrepresented me in a very harmful way," he said. "It was completely out of character and it depicted me in a very bad light."

Guardino was the victim of online impersonation, and he soon found out he wasn't alone - friends, colleagues and relatives had stories of usurped identities and tarnished reputations. Unfortunately for them, the state law on impersonation was written in 1872 and is not equipped to deal with the digital age.

But a bill making its way through the Legislature is looking to change that. Inspired by Guardino's story, state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, introduced a bill in June that would make it a misdemeanor to maliciously impersonate someone.

If Simitian's bill passes, online impersonations with the purpose "of harming, intimidating, threatening or defrauding" would be punishable with a maximum fine of $1,000 and one year in jail.

But while supporters believe the law urgently needs to be updated to punish and deter malicious impersonators, privacy advocates worry that such legislation might easily cross the line and threaten people's First Amendment rights.
Political commentary

Simitian said his bill is not going after those who create fake Barack Obama Facebook profiles for political commentary, or the likes of Fake Steve Jobs, Newsweek writer Daniel Lyons who poses as Apple's chief executive in his satirical blog.

Instead, the bill is meant to deal with miscreants whose impersonations range from the naughty to the outright sinister.

In recent years, impersonators have tweeted under the names of Maya Angelou, Kanye West and St. Louis Cardinals' manager Tony La Russa, to name a few. Revenge-seekers and pranksters have embarrassed their victims in front of potential employers and created smears that are difficult to remove from the Web. Students have posed as teachers to harass other kids.

In one case in December, a Wyoming woman was raped in her home by a man responding to a Craigslist ad looking for "a real aggressive man with no concern for women" to fulfill a rape fantasy. However, she didn't post the ad - it had been her disgruntled ex-boyfriend, a Marine stationed in California who was posing as her. Similar stories abound, online abuse experts said.

'No recourse'
The Internet "makes it so easy for stalkers and harassers to ruin somebody's life with a few keystrokes, and there's little to no recourse for victims to try and undo the damage," said Jayne Hitchcock, president of the volunteer organization Work to Halt Online Abuse, who was a victim of cyberstalking.

No one seems to know how widespread the problem is, but Hitchcock said she has noted more complaints about MySpace, Twitter, Facebook and e-mail impersonations.

"I probably see it more often than I'd like to through our organization," she said.

But when it comes to addressing the problem, not everybody is convinced Simitian's approach is the best. Corynne McSherry, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said the scope of Simitian's bill was defined too loosely and could have a negative effect on freedom of speech. For one, she said, the definition of harm needs to be narrowed.
"Harm is a pretty broad term. That could just mean that you undermined a politician's reputation. I'm concerned that the nature of 'harm' is too vaguely defined," she said.

McSherry also expressed concern that the bill would not protect some forms of parody and satire on the Internet that involve impersonation.

For instance, she pointed to the Yes Men, activists that the foundation is representing in a lawsuit filed against them by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In October, the group held a fake news conference posing as chamber representatives who promised the organization would no longer lobby against climate-change legislation.

"It was a very effective form of satire that was really useful in provoking some form of debate," McSherry said. "I don't think it's Sen. Simitian's intent to shut down this form of freedom of speech but I believe it's what this bill can do."

Simitian's bill names "credible" impersonators that act without consent, but, McSherry said, "Just requiring that an impersonation is credible is not going far enough to protect the type of political speech I'm talking about."

And even though she supports the spirit of Simitian's bill, Hitchcock questions whether it's enforceable, considering the need to educate law enforcers on online abuse issues and the jurisdictional problems relating to cybercrimes.

"Unless the victim and the harasser are both in California, it's going to need a lot of collaboration between law enforcement agencies and the states. And if (the impersonator) is in another country, good luck. But it's a start," she said.

Hard to enforce
Danielle Keats Citron, a law professor at the University of Maryland who has written extensively about the role of the law and online abuse, believes the proposed law will have challenges based on the enforcement difficulties and the broadness of its interpretation.

But even if the bill in its current form becomes law, Citron said, the statute might have an overall positive effect. At its most basic level, the measure might help change attitudes about what's permissible, she said.

"The legislation is trying to take the lead on this emerging technology that people are abusing, and teaching them how to treat each other," she said. "It's an important point we shouldn't forget."

She added: "But we also have to get the law right."

Sunday, February 26, 2012


Getting Known Through Anonymity

Much has been said lately about how anonymity on the internet "disinhibits" people. Feeling relatively safe with their real-world identity hidden, they say and do things they otherwise wouldn't normally say or do in "real life." In some cases, that seems to be a good thing. People may be more honest, open, generous, and helpful. In other cases, however, the nasty side of a person gets unleased.

I'd like to give a slightly different spin to this "disinhibition through anonymity" concept. My basic premise is this: NO ONE WANTS TO BE COMPLETELY ANONYMOUS. No one wants to be totally invisible, with no name or identity or presence or interpersonal impact at all. Everyone wants and needs to express some aspect of who they are, to have others acknowledge and react to some aspect of their identity. In some cases, it's a benign feature of who you are. In some cases, not. Anonymity on the internet allows people to set aside some aspects of their identity in order to safely express others. Snerts need someone to react to and affirm their offensive behavior. This need is a bit different than simply catharting their frustrated drives, as the "eros-ridden" idea suggests. Snerts are trying to express some unresolved and warded-off feature of their troubled identity in an (often desperate) attempt to have it acknowledged. Unfortunately, they do it in a way that abuses other people. Under ideal conditions, they may be able to accept and work through those inner feelings and self-concepts that torture them. If not, they will continue to vent that ooze through their online snert identities, while safely dissociating it from their "real world" identity.

Does greater anonymity result in greater deviance? It's an interesting question. Because greater anonymity usually is associated with less accountability for one's actions, the answer would seem to be "yes." (snipped)

The higher prevalence of misbehavior among anonymous users may be more than just a "disinhibiting" effect. Rather than the anonymity simply "releasing" the nasty side of a person, the person may experience the anonymity - the lack of an identity - as toxic. Feeling frustrated about not being known or having a place in the group, the new user acts out that frustration in an antisocial manner. They need to feel that they have SOME kind of impact on others. It's not unlike the ignored child who starts acting "bad" in order to acquire attention from the parent, even if it's scolding and punishment. The squeakiest wheel. Humans, being humans, will almost always choose a connection to others over no connection at all, even if that connection is a negative one. Some snert guests may think (perhaps unconsciously) that their misbehavior is a justified retaliation against a community that they feel has stripped away their identity and alienated them. They reject because they feel rejected.

In rare cases, people who are well known in the community may become the trouble-makers. Social psychology has demonstrated that people with power and status often have "idiosyncrasy credit" - they are given a bit more leeway in violating some of the less critical rules of the community.


This is from a fascinating site on the Psychology of Cyberspace which can be read (which we STRONGLY recommend) in full here.) And many many thanks to OneofSeven from our sister site for once again, finding such a wonderful article!! - EOPC

Saturday, February 25, 2012


(note: Many CYBERPATHS are sex addicts who use the internet to hide their real purposes behind pretty words and promises. "I love you" seems to be their way into your bed. It is cheaper than a hooker or more fun to twist someone's emotions and then dump them because you view everyone as an OBJECT. Many of these Cyberpaths are narcissistic psychopaths who are emotionally vacant & immature to the point that many keep reliving the shallow come ons of their 'teen years' and 'being on the make' to prove their prowess and provide themselves with stimulation.)
Dr. Hare describes people he calls psychopaths as "intraspecies predators who use charm, manipulation, intimidation, sex and [threats] to control others and to satisfy their own selfish needs."

(SEE ALSO: "Don Juan as Psychopath")

Here is an article on this sort of "affair" - real or cyber - EOPC)

By: Dr. Robert Huizenga

One kind of extramarital affair revolves around sexual addiction. The partner involved in the affair, plain and simple, has a difficult time saying "NO." He/she may want to, but feels compelled to say "yes."

People can't say no? Well, I believe we all have the capacity, at some level, to say no. However, not all have developed that capacity or reached that level to firmly say no and mean it.

Some are stuck and seem to lack the ability to consistently act on the no. Please remember that all of us are grabbed by something and then find it difficult to let go. Infidelity when connected to sexual addiction and its many forms, however, becomes a powerful focal point.

How to know if infidelity (or Cyberpathy) is attached to sexual addiction:
1. Sex takes on an inflated role or value. Sex, sexual conquest, sexual release becomes a powerful force. Acting on the sexual impulse is a frequent activity. Thinking about sex likewise consumes an inordinate amount of time. Multiple ways of acting out sexually (internet porn, strip clubs, multiple sex partners, online affairs, email lists full of 'contacts', profiles full of fake information or membership on sites catering to dating, prostitutes and/ or those who frequent them, membership on sites for sexual liaisons, etc.) are common.

2. This activity is bound by fear. The person lives with fear: the fear of getting caught, the fear of consequences, the fear of being found out, the fear of being abnormal, the fear of being punished, and the fear of losing family, spouse, job and respect.

3. A promise/ failure cycle ebbs and flows with the inability to say no. After an acting out episode the person usually experiences guilt/fear and promises to self or others, I won't do it again. This will last... until the urge is acted upon again. The spouse/partner may be aware or unaware (but sense that something is not right) of the roller coaster and succession of broken promises.

4. Others are used or seen as objects for personal gratification. No true intimacy is developed.

5. Sexuality sometimes confused with other needs or connected to unresolved past pain or trauma. A child who experiences confusion around sexuality or sexual abuse of one form or another, may carry along that confusion and attempt to work that through in a marriage or extramarital affairs.

6. Such a person lives in a distorted world. They come to see the world and relationship through the eyes of their addiction. They have a great capacity to rationalize their behavior, deceive others and may lead a dual life. (Or be a Pathological Predator, such as a Cyberpath)

Tip: If you suspect these characteristics fit you or someone you love (even someone you know online), get some help for yourself before your world disintegrates further or falls apart.

There are many things in our culture that grab us and won't let go. Sometimes sex is one of them. Perhaps that's the case for you or your spouse/partner.

These questions are intended to help you be more aware of some behaviors that perhaps indicate that sex has a hold on you. If you answer yes to three or more questions it probably is wise to take a closer look at the place of sex in your life.
1) Do I have sex at inappropriate times, inappropriate places and/or with the wrong people?

2) Do I make promises to myself or rules for myself concerning my sexual behavior that I find I cannot follow?

3) Have I lost count of the number of sexual partners I've had in the past 3 years?

4) Do I have sex regardless of the consequences (e.g. the threat of being caught, the risk of contracting herpes, gonorrhea, AIDS, oral or genital STDS, etc.)? (condoms don't protect against everything. Viruses can be transmitted and live on the skin, in the mouth and so on for months and be transmitted to the spouse/ partner -- no matter how clean you think you are)

5) Do I feel uncomfortable about my masturbation, the fantasies I engage in, the props I use, and/or the places in which I do it?

6) Do I feel jaded, exhausted, cynical? Am I on the path to that?

7) Do I feel that my life is unmanageable because of my sexual behavior?

8) Do I have sex as a way to deal with or escape from life's problems? Do I feel entitled to sex? Do I feel as though I have earned sex?

9) Do I have a serious relationship threatened or destroyed because of outside sexual activity on my part?

10) Do I feel that my sexual life affects my spiritual life in a negative way?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Sued for Refusing to Help a Cyberstalking Victim

By Victor Fiorillo

Earlier this week in Philadelphia’s Federal Court, 25-year-old Temple grad Cailin Arena and her friend Patricia McWilliam of South Carolina sued a John Doe they say has been cyberstalking them and publishing their copyrighted photos and writings without their permission. In the same suit, they name Internet giant Google—which hosts the perpetrator’s blog, Korean Dating Bloggers, as well as a fraudulent Google Plus account set up in Arena’s name—for failing to do anything about it.

In recent years, the women have traveled to Korea and Japan to teach English to grade-school students in those countries. Arena, who has been dating a Korean man since 2010, is currently teaching in Japan, where her boyfriend resides, while McWilliam teaches in Seoul, South Korea. Both women have blogged extensively about their overseas experiences, and these blogs, which they’ve deleted, appear to be the original source of the screen-grabbing stalker’s material.

According to the lawsuit, which was filed by Arena’s father, Montgomery County attorney Charles Arena, the problems began on January 3, 2012, when John Doe sent an anonymous email to Arena’s supervisor containing a link to sexual content and stating that Arena was responsible for it, and another email to Arena, which read, “Sorry to say but you’re an ugly brown something. You probably also smell bad. Have fun in Japan, I hear the radiation isn’t bad in Fukushima. Why not buy some vegetables from there for you and your ugly brown children.” Also that day, John Doe is said to have posted racist commentary about Arena in an online forum associated with her job.

One week later, John Doe created Korean Dating Bloggers, using Arena’s full name and her employer’s name as a website tag, so that his blog would come up in Google searches for her. On the site, he posted screen shots from her now deleted blog, copyrighted pictures she says he stole from her actual Google Plus account, and negative commentary about her. He also created an impostor Tumblr account and Google Plus profile in her name. He reached out to contacts in her actual Google Plus circle, linking them to Korean Dating Bloggers. The allegations relating to John Doe’s actions toward McWilliam are similar.

The plaintiffs contend that the defendant’s use of their copyrighted material violates the Digital Millennium Copyright and that Google has a responsibility to remove it. They and their attorneys have repeatedly contacted Google headquarters, demanding a resolution.

At first, Google responded that they do not remove allegedly defamatory, libelous or slanderous material unless requested by a court order, even though the plaintiffs’ claims were regarding copyright, not defamation.

Then, Google responded with a message that the plaintiffs call “nonsensical.” In it, Google stated that the company decided not to take action “based on our policies concerning content removal. We would like to assist you, but we don’t currently disclose this information. Should it become publicly available in the future, you may find it on our site at http://www.google.com/about.html.” Getting nowhere with Google, they filed the suit.

As for the identity of the blogger, the plaintiffs believe they know who he is and that he resides in Pennsylvania. They hope that the court will compel Google to reveal his true identity and intend to file more actions today. “The law hasn’t caught up with technology,” says Charles Arena. “This is scary. What do you do when someone seeks to do irreparable harm to you online?”

A Google spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Lawyer Loses Defamation Suit Against Website

By Staci Zaretsky

A lesson that Matt Couloute Jr. is learning.

It’s a sad fact, but almost everyone has had the opportunity to partake in a bad romance or two. And although it may sound elegant when Lady Gaga sings about it, in real life, it can be devastating. That’s why websites like LiarsCheatersRUs were created — so that jilted lovers could have a place to unleash their angst about failed relationships caused by a lover’s supposed infidelity.

But what happens when you’re a lawyer and a scorned ex-girlfriend lets loose on the internet about your infidelities? That is apparently what happened in the case of Matthew Couloute Jr., a former prosecutor and Court TV analyst, after he allegedly cheated on Amanda Ryncarz.

Now he’s suing Ryncarz and another ex-flame, roller-derby diva Stacey Blitsch, both represented by [ ] lawyer to the wannabe stars, Gloria Allred. Thus far, we’ve kept our coverage of the drama to Morning Docket entries (here, here, and here), but now, Matt Couloute has spoken out about the situation on television.

For those of you who haven’t been following this story as it makes its rounds on New York’s finest tabloids, here is the LiarsCheatersRUs entry that Couloute is suing over (click here)

Ouch, way to hit him where it hurts — his wallet. Couloute’s ex, Amanda Ryncarz, was outed as the “anonymous” writer of this review, and now she’s airing her grievances even more publicly. In a press conference organized by Gloria Allred last September, Ryncarz announced that she posted on the website “because [she] wanted to warn other women in order to protect them from what [she] suffered.”

Stacey Blitsch, on the other hand, completely denies posting LiarsCheatersRUs, but many suspect that this response to Ryncarz’s original entry was penned by her hand (click here)

Well, if she did write that, then this Blitsch has got balls. Hell totally hath no fury like a woman scorned.

Couloute just wants a clean Google search. You can’t fault the man for that, but you’ve got to wonder if this attorney is getting what he deserves. Recall from 1L year that truth is a defense to defamation. If you don’t remember, then Gloria Allred is here to help you out:

“I think the minimum the women should be allowed to do is to speak out and speak the truth about the men who they have had relationships [with] and about the men who have hurt them. We believe lawsuits like this should not be allowed. This is free speech. Women must have a voice and be able to speak to each other on matters of common interest without fear of being dragged into court.”

You hear that, ladies? You can say whatever you damn well want to say on the internet, and if you happen to get sued over it, then Girl Power Gloria will have your back.

Couloute’s lawsuit will be heard in court early this year, and when we get more details, we’ll be sure to pass them along to our readers. For now, if you’re thinking of cheating on your significant other, just remember that the internet is kind of like that Rockwell song — somebody is always watching you. But don’t even think about suing them for their online rants, because they’ve probably got Gloria Allred on speed dial.


Couloute loses his Defamation Suit:

Couloute was called a cheating “scum” who, according to Amanda Ryncarz, dumped her over the phone five days before marrying another woman. Blitsch has a son with Couloute.

Baer ruled that the statements were opinion and “clearly hyperbolic.” Couloutee identified the following statements on the site as defamatory and injurious to his status as an attorney:

Ryncarz statements:
1. “[Mr. Couloute] lied and cheated all through his 40 years of life.”

2. “[Mr. Couloute] [u]ses people/his son/women to get what he wants then dumps you when he’s done with them. Has no long term friends. He rents or finances everything and owns absolutely nothing.”

3. “He is very very manipulating. he’s an attorney so he’s great at lying and covering it up without batting an eye.”1 .

Blitsch statements:

1. “[W]hat these ladies have said about his character is very true. I met him and dated briefly and I was taken in with the charm and instant “connection” he claimed we had . . . [A]s soon as I started asking questions about other aspects of his life and figured out he wasn’t comple[tely] honest he turned cold then disappeared. And of course another male is going to say Matt is a “solid dude” . . . if you agree with lieing [sic] and manipulating any female you come in contact with I guess he could be considered that. . . .”

2. “I came across this site by accident by following a UFL news feed, so your friend Matt has more problems than these posts if in search for the league his name is associated with this site.”

Couloute insisted that these comments included factual misrepresentations. Notably, one of the comment came with the following observation:
“This is the absolute truth about this man!! He will stop communication with you suddenly, then reach out years later as he did with me trying to sweet talk you and make you feel like you’re the most special woman in the world that he’s been looking for. He is very very manipulating. he’s an attorney so he’s great at lying and covering it up without batting an eye. Our relationship didn’t last long as I figured him out pretty quickly but for others, BE FOREWARNED, HE’S SCUM! RUN FAR A WAY!”

Couloute originally alleged only tortious interference with prospective business relations — perhaps in recognition of the opinion defense. However, he later amended to add the defamation claim.

Nevertheless, Baer (the judge) found that these comments, except one, were clearly opinion found on a site filled with one-sided accounts:
With the possible exception of the statement that Plaintiff “rents or finances everything and owns absolutely nothing”—a statement clearly capable of being proven true or false—the comments, even if viewed in isolation, are opinion. Defendants state that Plaintiff “lied and cheated all through his 40 years of life”, and that, because Plaintiff is an attorney, “he’s great at lying and covering it up without batting an eye.” Comments such as these are clearly hyperbolic. And when viewed within the larger context of the website on which they were posted, there can be no doubt that a reasonable reader would understand the comments to be opinion. As Defendants note, liarscheatersrus.com is “specifically intended to provide a forum for people to air their grievances about dishonest romantic partners.” Id. at 9. The average reader would know that the comments are “emotionally charged rhetoric” and the “opinions of disappointed lovers.” Id. Of course the Internet makes it more likely that a greater number of people will read comments such as these, and thereby amplify the impact they may have on a person, but this does not change the underlying nature of the comments themselves.

Couloutte plans to appeal.

There is a site with Couloutte’s name that contains the following odd statement from “him or her”:
Put Matt Couloute into the Google Search engine and you will not find Matthew Couloute’s background regarding his / her time as a news reporter on Court TV. You won’t learn Matt Couloute once represented a football league. An individual won’t learn this individual ended up being the assistant district attorney throughout Connecticut record.

Not at all, you will end up forwarded to liarscheatersrus.org, a site wherever ladies admit regarding extramarital affairs of the these people out dated or perhaps married.

Well Matt Couloute has decided to deal with the problem. In his or her case he recorded a lawsuit towards Amanda Ryncarz, his former sweetheart, that admits putting up on the spot relating to a few year romantic relationship. . . .
Matt Couloute has additionally within the go well with his / her child’s mom whom furthermore published on the website. She declines it but states the lady nevertheless believes Couloute is often lies. spouse.
It is not clear who has created this site, but it is one of the first sites that comes up when you try to find any site from Couloute. Here is his site. He includes a specialty in dealing with “cyberbullying.”

The case is Couloute v. Ryncarz, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 20534.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Doctor of Economics Sentenced for Cyber-Stalking, Extorting Ex-wife

By Nicholas Phillips

(Missouri, USA) ​Jovica Petrovic, a 62-year-old native of Croatia, was sentenced today to 97 months in prison for cyber-stalking and extorting his former American wife.

Last November, a jury found him guilty upon learning of the bizarre events that transpired after the couple's divorce: Petrovic posted on a website some images of them having sex (which he'd secretly recorded). He also added personal information about the woman's past and her children.

In addition, the jury learned how Petrovic printed that web address on about 150 postcards and mailed them to her colleagues, friends, family -- even the local Walgreens. He told her he'd take down the site if she gave him furniture, her wedding ring and $100k.

"I was out of my mind," Petrovic told the court today in a long, meandering statement delivered with a heavy German accent (he was born in Croatia but grew up in Germany; he also has a doctorate in economics).

His attorney, Steve Stenger, added that the government had "overreached" in a private dispute, and sought to "demonize" his client.

Assistant U.S. attorney John Sauer, however, countered that Petrovic "made himself into a demon" by committing acts that were "vile, appalling and disgusting." The defendant's deeds were coldy calculated in advance, Sauer added, to destroy his ex-wife and inflict as much personal pain and humiliation as possible.

In the end, it came down to the opinion of U.S. district court judge Henry Autrey.

"We can do so many things with the Internet," Autrey said drily. "Nobody can see us as we slink and stalk and covet. It's fun. The Internet is a beautiful thing."

But Petrovic was trying to diminish his responsibility, the judge observed, by suggesting that his ex-wife was complicit in his crimes. Autrey -- like the jury -- found such a version of events "inconceivable."

The government had asked for a sentence above the guideline range for a total of 87 months. Judge Autrey went above and beyond that, sending Petrovic away for 96 months.

Petrovic said he would appeal.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

After Meeting Via Online Dating, Cyberpath Stalks and Threatens

A jilted former City worker found guilty of orchestrating a campaign of harassment against a doctor and her mother faces jail.

Al Amin Dhalla, 42, moved into the home of Dr Alison Hewitt, 35, in Brighton, East Sussex, months after meeting her through an elite online dating agency for professionals.

But relations soured after Dr Hewitt's family voiced concern over his "unseemly haste" to marry her and over lies they uncovered about Dhalla's past.

The couple split after a year, triggering a terrifying four-month campaign by stalker Dhalla in which he tried to burn down her mother and stepfather's home and hired a private investigator to snoop on her.

Yesterday at Lewes Crown Court, ex-City auditor Dhalla was found guilty of seven counts, including arson being reckless as to whether life is endangered, attempted arson, harassment of Dr Hewitt and her mother, theft and damaging property.

He was found not guilty of two counts of the more serious charge of putting a person in fear of violence by harassment.

Today, following further deliberations, jurors also convicted Dhalla of perverting the course of justice, having an offensive weapon and found him not guilty of another theft charge.

Dhalla stalked Dr Hewitt by posing as a doctor at the hospital where she was due to start work and asked to see the trainee doctors' rota. He also bought two mini-crossbows and a 1.77 air pistol with ammunition for both and a van specially adapted to include a cage in the rear.

At the height of the harassment, police airlifted Dr Hewitt's mother Pamela Hewitt and stepfather David Gray from their holiday home on Lundy Island off the Devon coast amid fears for their safety.

A senior detective believes they foiled Dhalla - described by Miss Hewitt's family as a "narcissistic psychopath" - from committing three murders. The trial heard that Canadian national Dhalla came to Britain in 2009. A year later he met Dr Hewitt through a London-based internet dating agency.

Prosecutor Richard Barton said he moved himself into her home in Church Place, Brighton, but cracks soon appeared in Dhalla's claims about his background.

Due to Mr Gray working in the defence systems industry, he required security clearance and had to tell his employers about any changes in his family's circumstances.

Through his own inquiries and those of his employer, it emerged that Dhalla had lied about his past. He falsely claimed that he was 35, an orphan and had lived in Britain for several years. He also did not mention a conviction in Canada for assaulting his uncle with a weapon. His lies led to him being suspended from his job in December 2010 and in the same month Dr Hewitt decided to end their relationship.

The court heard that Dhalla's behaviour turned increasingly erratic and sparked a manhunt involving five police forces. He at first refused to move out of her home, forcing Dr Hewitt's relatives to evict him. Days later, poison pen letters started being received by Dr Hewitt's NHS employer, where she was a trainee doctor, maliciously claiming she acted in a criminal way.

Neighbours of Mrs Hewitt and Mr Gray in the upmarket village of Aston Abbotts, near Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, were also sent anonymous vindictive letters.

Over the course of the next few months, Dhalla's behaviour became increasingly threatening towards both Dr Hewitt and her family, Mr Barton said. In one incident, he stood in the middle of the road and blocked her path as he pleaded with her to give their relationship another chance. On April 1 last year, Mr Gray and Mrs Hewitt went on holiday to Lundy Island, with only a few friends and family knowing where they were heading.

The next day, after buying a .22 air rifle and a 1.77 air pistol and two mini crossbows, Dhalla was arrested in a field near Chippenham, Wiltshire, while target-practising.

Inside his specially-adapted van were masking tape, tools and details of locations, said by the prosecution to include Mrs Hewitt's and Mr Gray's holiday spot, their home addresses and hospitals where Dr Hewitt worked.

He was charged with offences related to discharging the weapons and freed on bail, a decision described by detectives as "regrettable".

Days later, while Mrs Hewitt and Mrs Gray were still on the island of Lundy, he torched their thatched cottage in Buckinghamshire. After dousing newspapers with petrol, he set fires by the front and back doors but no one was hurt, although people were asleep in neighbouring homes. Such was the concern by police for Mrs Hewitt and Mr Gray at this point that they airlifted the couple off Lundy Island to safety.

The case took a further dramatic twist when, a few days later on April 7, Dhalla was spotted at the Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath, West Sussex, by Dr Hewitt's new colleagues. Posing as a doctor, he was trying to lay his hands on the trainee doctors' rota, including the times when Dr Hewitt would be on duty. On the same evening, he hired one of a series of cars to drive back to Buckinghamshire. But in a fit of frustration at seeing his ex-girlfriend's family home surrounded by police, he drove to a nearby police station at Wing instead and tried to burn it down.

Dhalla then visited Dr Hewitt's hospital workplace at 6.30am the following day, about two hours before she was due to clock on. Staff who had been warned that Dhalla was a potential threat spotted him dressed smartly and armed police arrested him.

In another hire car parked nearby, police found a loaded crossbow, a large knife, fuel cans and a fake doctor's outfit, including a stethoscope. Police officers also discovered razor blades, a fuel-soaked envelope addressed to Mrs Hewitt and a folder containing the trainee doctors' rota. He was charged and remanded in custody until his trial but while on remand he sent Dr Hewitt letters, prompting prosecutors to charge him with perverting the course of justice.

Bringing Dhalla to justice involved a "unique" partnership between five forces: Sussex, Devon and Cornwall, Wiltshire, Thames Valley and the Metropolitan Police.

Judge Charles Kemp adjourned sentencing to April 16 and requested psychiatric and probation service reports. Dr Hewitt told reporters that ministers should take note of her disturbing case and she called for harassment laws to be updated.

She said: "I ask that those involved in debating stalking and harassment laws look at this case. It is another example of how important it is that harassment laws are updated. Stalking destroys lives and we need to take it seriously. If it is not, it will be somebody else tomorrow, maybe even yourself."

Dr Hewitt choked back tears as she urged anyone who faces a similar ordeal to speak to the police immediately.

She said: "My message is to anyone out there who has been harassed or stalked. If you try to control the situation yourself and failed, if your family and friends have tried to help you and failed, then you need to go to the police. You cannot control this situation yourself. You need professional help. You must talk to police in order to get your life back and it takes time."

Detective Inspector John Wallace, from Sussex Police, said the case was the worst he had ever dealt with as he described Dhalla as "industrious, resourceful and intelligent".

He said it was "regrettable" that magistrates in Wiltshire chose to free him on bail, leaving him free to go on to commit further crimes against Dr Hewitt and her family. Although Dhalla remained "one step ahead of us" at some points, Mr Wallace said police eventually managed to bring him to justice.

Mr Wallace said: "We lost control of him at that point. It was regrettable but we deal with whatever hand we are dealt with in terms of investigation. He was arrested, charged, he was released by a court regrettably, but we caught up with him."

Mr Wallace said he believed Dhalla could have gone on to kill or cause serious harm.

"This man was arming himself with lethal weapons and going to extreme measures, so I believe there was a serious risk of harm," he said.

"This is a case that really stands out from the ordinary. In short, he is a dangerous man. I don't believe that he is a danger to the wider public but someone who enters into a relationship with him and things don't work out, he poses a serious threat to them. It was a real challenge to catch up with him. He changed car four times. Initially he was one step ahead of us but we caught him in the end."

Detective Chief Inspector Rebecca Mears, of Thames Valley Police, said she believed police prevented three people being murdered by arresting Dhalla.

Outside court, Dr Hewitt stood by her mother and stepfather and said: "I feel very relieved that it is all over now. I'm looking forward to getting back to my normal life. I feel very emotional at all that's happened and all I can say is a big thank you to all who have supported me through this process."

Mr Gray said: "Our daughter has endured considerable harassment and our primary consideration has always been for our daughter's safety. The family is hugely relieved that it is all over." He praised the police and prosecutor Richard Barton for their work on the case.

Detective Chief Inspector Rebecca Mears said: "Without a doubt, the joint actions of all five forces prevented a tragedy and without this joint working we could very easily have been dealing with up to three murders. "This horrific case clearly demonstrates the serious threat that stalking presents and how rapidly and dangerously it can escalate.

"I hope today's court result will enable the victims to rebuild their lives and attain a degree of normality after their frightening ordeals."

Tim Thompson, head of the Crown Prosecution Service, south east area, central district, which dealt with the case, said: "Mr Dhalla first appeared at Brighton Magistrates' Court in April 2011, charged with three offences, two of which could only be tried in the magistrates' court.

"Throughout the case, my team has set out to ensure that the overall pattern of behaviour would all be considered by one court, rather than allowing different incidents to be dealt with in isolation."

Monday, February 20, 2012

How to Avoid a Broken (Online) Heart

Here are some red flags that might indicate an online "romance" may be nothing more than an attempt to steal your money:

• You've never met face to face with your online suitor.

• They profess love immediately, often within 24 to 48 hours. They claim fate or God brought you together.

• They quickly use terms of endearment: "sweetie," "hon," "baby, " etc. (they can't remember your real name)

• On a social networking or dating site, their profile photo disappears soon after making contact and they prefer chatting by instant messaging. If they chat with you by webcam, theirs never seems to work.

• Their emails use bad grammar, poor spelling and the pronoun "i" instead of "I." They often misspell the name of their supposed hometown and don't know any local landmarks.

• They misunderstand typical American slang, such as "night owl" or "poker face."

• They quickly send small gifts (teddy bears, chocolate, flowers), often purchased with stolen credit cards or unwittingly by other victims being scammed.

• When asked a question they can't answer, they go offline to look up a response, always claiming they had a phone call or needed a bathroom break.

• They claim to be well-paid professionals in another U.S. city but traveling overseas for work assignments (engineering, mining, solar power, construction, etc.).

• They often say they've lost a spouse, child or other family member in a horrible accident or have seriously ill family members.

• They repeatedly request financial help for varied, urgent reasons: airline tickets to visit you; hospital bills after a car accident; difficulty accessing their bank account while traveling; need for shipping, customs fees, etc. for work assignments; family members require emergency surgery.

• They always have a new story for why repayments don't arrive.

• After an online absence, they call you by a different name, an indication they're working several victims at once.

• If caught in an inconsistency, they always have a cover-up (e.g., someone else used their computer to talk with you) or suggest you don't trust them.

• They insist you keep the relationship secret until they come to live with you.


• For victims seeking support, go to www.RomanceScams.org, an online nonprofit started in 2005 to raise awareness and offer peer counseling.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Pubgoers Urged to Help Find 'Love Rat' Thief

(U.K.) Pubgoers are being urged to help trace a man police have labelled a "love rat" who befriended a woman, then sold her car.

The woman, from Easington, County Durham, met the man calling himself Jamie Patterson, on a dating web site. But on the day he was due to move in with her and her teenage daughter, he sold her car and vanished.

Posters are now being placed in pubs in Newcastle, where Durham Police believe the man may live. The incident happened in October, but so far police have been unable to trace the man, who is in his 40s and has a number of distinctive tattoos.

A Durham Police spokeswoman described him as a "love rat" and added: "This was a single woman in her 40s who was looking for friendship and took this man at face value.

On 26 October, 2011 she contacted us to report her green Ford Fiesta stolen."

"It later transpired she had been befriended by this man on a dating website, and within a few weeks their relationship had become serious enough for him to start leaving belongings at her house. Jamie said he would drop the woman at her place of work in Sunderland, following which he would go to his home address in Newcastle and pick up more of his things. However, he failed to pick her up and she could not get an answer from his mobile phone. She got a taxi home and, because her house keys and car keys were on the same key ring, she needed to smash a window to get into her own home. She found all of his clothes gone and documentation for the car which showed it had been sold for about £1,000. Luckily we managed to recover the vehicle, but so far we have not been able to trace the man."

Police said the man is in his 40's, of stocky build and bald. He also has some distinctive tattoos, including the names Melisa and Keighley on his arm.

Friday, February 17, 2012

What Happens Online Stays Online?

By Robert Weiss LCSW, CSAT-S

Today’s omnipresent fear that one’s personal identifying data (e.g., social security number or credit card information) may be vulnerable to hackers and identity theft has pushed millions of subscribers into the arms of “identity theft protection” companies like LifeLock.

But is anyone really paying attention to what will happen when the sexually explicit language and photos that are sent via the latest “friend finder” smart-phone app or sex website get hacked or otherwise exploited?

When “joining” sites like Ashley Madison or downloading apps like Blendr, participants are offered some measure of comfort via a click-it guarantee that personal information will be securely maintained. But somehow it seems off the radar to the same professionals and/or married individuals, who would never send their social security number online via an unsecured site, that when you sext and arrange app-based sexual hook-ups, every word and pic sent via these apps also resides in a far-away server. And that information lives there for a whole lot longer than the instant it takes to sext a potential hook-up.

What happens to all the intensely personal, intimate sexual imagery and language now housed in the servers of companies like Ashley Madison (currently reporting over 9 million members), Adult Sex Finder and Grindr, to name just a few, if these business are bought out, go under or just plain get hacked? If recent news stories are any indication, online sexual activity isn’t nearly as private as many may naively believe:

Last month, Grindr, a popular smartphone app that enables gay men to meet other gay men using their phone’s GPS, was compromised by a Sydney hacker, who then placed users’ personal chats, explicit photos and private information online. This app currently has more than one million users worldwide. Security experts warn that the same vulnerabilities are present in other hook-up apps such as Blendr (the straight version of the app) and Ashley Madison.

Last week, a young man affiliated with hacker group Anonymous claimed to have hacked into a website operated by pornography provider Brazzers. The emails, usernames and other personal information of more than 350,000 users may have been exposed, a small sample of which were posted publicly online.

Anonymous has also just claimed responsibility for taking down the CIA website. Previously, the group took aim at the FBI, the Department of Justice, entertainment companies and the Church of Scientology, among others. Similar groups have targeted the U.S. Census Bureau, Interpol and various state public safety departments.

Over 20 years as a specialist in the field of adult intimacy disorders and sexual addiction has taught me (and you can see it clearly in the film Shame), that those intellectually stable, but emotionally challenged adults with problem patterns of sexual behavior can and do destroy their careers and tear apart their relationships without meaning to do so. All the while they believe they were somehow “safe” from being found out.

Unfortunately nearly all of these men and women prior to getting help expressed feeling when they are in the pursuit or “bubble” of their sexual and romantic highs that:

  • They are “in control” and “know what they are doing”
  • “No one will ever know or find out” if they’re “careful”

I need only cite Fmr. Congressman Anthony Weiner as one of the many unfortunate examples of this type of denial. And there are many more such individuals with stories in and out of the media nearly every day.

As technology becomes more intimately threaded into our lives, perhaps we need to broaden our ideas about what is truly “private” and what can be readily uncovered and shared in a public forum. If not, when the day comes (and it will) that the personal data currently maintained by any of the friend-sex-finder websites/apps are exposed and posted on a U.S. website, the Anthony Weiner sexting story, his subsequent marital separation and congressional resignation are going to look like a Girl Scout party by comparison.

Robert Weiss is the author of three books on sexual addiction and Founding Director of the premiere sex addiction treatment program, The Sexual Recovery Institute. He is Director of Sexual Disorders Services at The Ranch and Promises Treatment Centers. These centers serve individuals seeking sexual addiction treatment, love addiction treatment, and porn addiction help. Specifically, the Centers for Relationship and Sexual Recovery at The Ranch (CRSR) offer specialized intimacy, sex and relationship addiction treatment for both men and women in gender-specific, gender-separate treatment and living environments.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Dinner, Movie -- and a BACKGROUND CHECK -- for Online Daters

Kimberly Hall was twice betrayed by men she met dating online. Both turned out to be married.

So she started doing background checks on her dates using a Web site called Intelius. Now, the 33-year-old from Laurel is engaged to a man she met on Blackplanet.com, but even he had to undergo record checks.

"He wasn't happy" about doing it, Hall said of her fiance. But eventually he turned over his Social Security number.

In the past decade, sites such as Yahoo Personals, Match.com and eHarmony helped make Web-based courtship mainstream for 10 million current daters. But some seasoned veterans say the thrill of using the Internet's power to find soul mates has given way to caution. Singles now draw on a growing arsenal of security and research tools -- from services that verify identity and background to companies that provide temporary phone numbers as a barrier to stalkers.


(thanks to OneofSeven for sending us this good find!)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Married Con Man Uses PlentyofFish for Affair

By Patricia Kane

(U.K.) As Victoria Fraenzel logged on to the internet dating site for the first time, she was uncertain what response she would receive to her request for a man who would offer her ‘truth and honesty’. Yet within hours of keying her details into the popular website Plenty Of Fish, the 35-year-old was not disappointed with the response.

Darren Upton, a wealthy accountant in his late 30s, quickly got in touch and within days had charmed his way into her life and, soon after, her bed. They had an 18-month affair as he lavished expensive gifts on her, including a £3,000 Cartier watch, designer dresses by film-star favourite Amanda Wakeley and a Mercedes sports car.

Last week, however, Upton was finally exposed as a conman and jailed for six years for stealing hundreds of thousands of pounds from his clients so he could live a life of luxury.

Today Victoria tells how she foolishly fell for Upton’s lies, of the lifestyle they both enjoyed during their fling and her feelings of betrayal at discovering he was not single, as he had claimed, but married. His wife even had a daughter by him during their affair.

Victoria also reveals her shock at the extent of his fraud and of her anger at being labelled ‘greedy’ as the main beneficiary of his embezzled funds. She said: ‘I’ve been made out to be a terrible hussy who had thousands of pounds lavished on her by a married man. But I am not that sort of person. I’m not grasping or greedy. I didn’t ask him for anything. I just wanted to be with him. It was never about the money or the sex.’

Close to tears, she added: ‘After a series of bad relationships, I just wanted someone who wanted to give me a hug and love me. Darren appeared to be that man. I had finally found someone who seemed to genuinely care about me and made me feel special. He was kind and caring. That’s all I wanted – but it was all a lie.’

In total, the accountant cheated 33 clients by not passing to the taxman £500,000 they had paid him. On Thursday, at Leeds Crown Court, he admitted 15 fraud offences between January 2010 and June last year. He also asked for 23 similar offences to be taken into consideration.

Passing sentence, Judge Sally Cahill QC said the crimes were committed for ‘pure selfish greed’. She told him: ‘You were thoroughly dishonest and motivated by greed. This was a gross breach of trust, it was planned from the offset and fraudulent from the offset. I consider this to be professional offending at a high level.’

For Victoria, now 36, the last eight months since discovering the truth have been filled with remorse and self-reproach at being duped so easily. She thought she was going to spend the rest of her life with Upton, with plans to ‘retire’ to the Bahamas in October, where he claimed to have a beachside property.

‘He told me we would get married and we would be happy there together,’ said Victoria. ‘I had no idea he already had a wife and a daughter who had been born during our relationship. I was shocked beyond words when I finally discovered the truth. I’m still struggling to take in the extent of his lies. Nothing in his behaviour ever made me suspicious. I feel very stupid now but I believed everything he said.’

This was not Victoria’s first ‘bad experience’ with men. One of her former partners was Bryan Garvey – who had shared an £18.5 million National Lottery jackpot with four other winners before she met him. ‘My relationship with Bryan ended acrimoniously and it took nearly four years before I thought of looking for someone else,’ she said.

‘Once bitten, twice shy, so it was a really big decision for me to start dating again, and I thought an internet site might help me find someone more compatible. It was my first time on the site and on my posting, I remember saying I was looking for “truth, honesty… a real person”.

‘I cringe now looking back because hindsight is a wonderful thing. Darren got in touch within hours and after a couple of days of online chat, we agreed to meet in a pub in Preston. I remember him sending me a photograph at one point and I saw a wedding ring on his finger. When I said, “That looks like you’re married,” he replied that he’d been engaged but it was now over.’

Meeting him for the first time, however, was a shock for 6ft Victoria – who was a model in her teenage years. She explained: ‘I’m not unattractive and I’m used to dating good-looking men, so it was a bit of a shock to meet Darren in the flesh. My first impression was that he was ugly but his banter and charm made me see him in a different light and in the end I agreed to meet him again.’

They met a few days later, again in Preston, and this time, keen to impress, he picked her up in his Bentley with personalised number plates DJU. The court would hear that Upton had also already bought his wife, Tina, a Maserati. He had also splashed out on a £10,000 box at Leeds United Football Club and even spent £3,000 on a model railway.

Within a few dates, Upton would whisk Victoria off to his £500,000 penthouse flat in an upmarket area of Leeds, overlooking the River Aire and the city skyline. Exquisitely decorated with white leather sofas and state-of-the-art home-entertainment equipment, including a large plasma TV, Upton told her he lived there alone.

As the relationship became more intimate, Upton’s gifts became more lavish. He bought her a Cartier watch, as well as diamond earrings, and several thousands of pounds worth of designer clothes and accessories from Harvey Nichols, including a number of Mulberry handbags. In one shopping spree alone, he blew more than £2,000 on two dresses by Amanda Wakeley – a favourite of Charlize Theron, Scarlett Johansson and Kate Winslet.

From October 2010, he also began paying £800-a-month rent on another apartment in Salford, Greater Manchester, where Victoria would sometimes stay with him when she was not at her own home in nearby Altrincham. He gave her a bank card with a £500 limit to buy anything for the flat.

The couple ate at the best restaurants in Manchester, such as San Carlo and Rosso, favourites of Premier League footballers. They had been dating for about six months when a smitten Upton bought Victoria a black Mercedes sports car.

She said: ‘He had been talking about it for some time. I was gobsmacked at his generosity but if he said he would get me something, he always did. He had the car delivered to my home. I just jumped into the car in excitement and went for a drive. Now I know he was a conman but at that time I loved him more than ever.’ For Victoria it was not an entirely new lifestyle, having grown up with indulgent, wealthy parents on a sprawling farm near Blackburn.

At an early age, she had learned to ride horses and was a competitive showjumper before turning her back on the sport in her teens. When her father committed suicide eight years ago, he left Victoria independently wealthy and with no need to rely on Upton’s generosity. She said: ‘It really angers me that people might think I was desperate for him to spend all this money on me and that I was in the relationship to gain financially. I didn’t need him to buy me any of those things. It was nice, of course, and he wanted to do it. But if I’d known it was all paid for with stolen money, I would never have touched him or his gifts.’

As her relationship with Upton deepened, he began to be more careless, even taking her along to his offices – while his wife was off work nursing their baby daughter – for sex sessions during working hours.

She recalled: ‘The staff all knew who I was yet they never said a word to his wife. We had sex pretty much everywhere in his office: on the desk, on the floor, anywhere we could make it exciting. I was so happy to be with someone who was so caring and considerate. He never mentioned a wife and certainly not his new baby daughter. One of the memories that turns my stomach now is when we were out one night at dinner and he produced some photographs of a baby girl. He told me she was his new niece – but in fact it was his own daughter, who was just a few months old. Later he sent more photographs of her to my phone. That makes me really angry now to think that he would deny his own daughter as well as betraying his wife.’

Victoria would remain in ignorance until June last year when, unable to get through to Upton on his mobile phone one day, she rang his office.

‘I asked if Darren was there and a secretary said, “I’ll let you speak to his wife” and transferred the call. I felt numb with shock. Tina Upton [who was also the company secretary] answered and told me Darren was being questioned by police over financial irregularities. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Not only was I having to take in that he had a wife I hadn’t known anything about, but he was in some sort of financial trouble. Then, without asking me outright if I was Darren’s mistress, Tina suddenly said that she’d suspected her husband was having an affair for some time but “had not pursued it”.

‘I felt distraught and hung up. Soon afterwards, I got a visit from police at the apartment in Manchester. They confirmed what I now knew – that Darren was married and had committed fraud. My Mercedes was taken away and the apartment lease terminated. It was a nightmare of unimaginable proportions and the man I had thought better than all the others who had gone before, turned out to be the biggest b*****d of the lot. How could he do this to a woman who had just given birth to his child? I would never have started seeing him if I had known the truth. It’s despicable.’

‘I felt very foolish. How could I have been so hoodwinked? Life had come crashing down and I found out this wonderful man who had made me feel so complete was already married with a child and had cheated those poor people out of hundreds of thousands of pounds. It was horrendous. Not only did I feel sorry for them but I felt very sorry for his wife. She’s the true victim. How could he do this to a woman who had just given birth to his child? I would never have started seeing him if I had known the truth. It’s despicable.’

The subsequent investigation discovered the total value of Upton’s fraud was £532,000. The firm had about 800 clients, mainly small computer companies, and instead of paying his clients’ corporation tax to the taxman, Upton diverted the cash into his own account. His clients even ended up having to pay penalties for unpaid tax when his crimes were exposed.

Upton had previously been investigated and forced to pay compensation for an unauthorised investment scheme but had continued to commit offences when he was on bail.

Victoria did not attend court last week, having now washed her hands of Upton. She said: ‘I couldn’t bear it. It has brought back too many painful memories. But I want people to know I am not to blame for any of this. I didn’t make him do any of it. He lied to me too.’

The prosecution said many of the clients he deceived felt betrayed as they regarded him as a friend. Other victims said their businesses had been left close to collapse and they had suffered ill health.

Upton’s defence team claimed he made a legitimate annual profit of £250,000, but began offending because he was forced to repay £840,000 to the Financial Services Authority in monthly instalments of £10,000 over the earlier investment scheme, which had not led to criminal charges. Not prepared to cut back on his lifestyle, he then started to misappropriate clients’ funds.

Victoria was never investigated by police, who accepted she had no knowledge of where the funds were coming from. Heartbroken by Upton’s deception, she has attempted to move on, and has thrown her energy into building up her own beauty business. She also had brief relationships with two international footballers since her relationship with Upton ended. Despite everything he has put her through, however, Victoria cannot bring herself to hate Upton.

She said: ‘He hasn’t done me any real harm – he was always a true gentleman to me and I will always remember that about him. He has been described as arrogant but I never saw that side of him. But what he did to his clients, as well as his wife and daughter, was unforgivable. He deserves to be in prison for what he did to them.