An admitted fraudster has said his offending was in some ways justified, claiming his victim sexually offended against him when he was a child.
Jeremiah Thomas James Deakin was remanded in custody in the ACT Supreme Court late Tuesday (19 April) when it became clear he had no viable means to stay in the Territory while awaiting sentencing.
His defence lawyer James Maher said Mr Deakin “made the difficult but, in my opinion, the mature decision to ask Your Honour to revoke bail”.
Between 2016 and 2018, Mr Deakin convinced his victim, Mr Jones (pseudonym), he would be legally liable for Mr Deakin’s failure to correctly claim his Centrelink income, and the only way to avoid prosecution was to pay for a number of expenses.
He also pretended he had been held in custody, that there were charges relating to the previous sexual relationship between himself and Mr Jones, and that Centrelink was investigating Mr Jones for money laundering.
Mr Deakin posed as an ASIO investigator and a solicitor with the fictional name ‘Sarah Bradford’ to defraud his victim of more than $700,000.
He said the money was needed for a variety of claims, including medical bills, legal fees, rent, fines for late payments and his own living expenses.
In court, Mr Deakin said once the lies had started, he just “couldn’t stop”.
“By that stage, I was heavily addicted to gambling and drugs,” he said.
“Most nights, I was gambling $2000 to $5000 at pokies in the ACT.”
Mr Deakin and Mr Jones met on a dating website where Mr Deakin offered sexual favours to a number of men in exchange for money.
Mr Jones told police he was 58 years old when he met Mr Deakin on a dating website in 2006; however, when interviewed by police, Mr Deakin claimed they had met in 2004 when he was 14 years old.
At the time, Mr Deakin said his father and step-mother neglected him and he began frequenting ‘gay beats’ where he would “interact with several people who gave me money to engage in sexual services”.
“They paid anywhere between $50 to $150, sometimes as much as $200,” he said.
“I went to school with holes in my shoes … I was desperate enough in taking the chance to ask people for money. Things like deodorant, clothes, food, school excursions, I somehow had to pay for myself.”
After Mr Deakin and Mr Jones’ sexual relationship ended, Mr Jones still voluntarily provided Mr Deakin with financial assistance.
“I would simply ask,” Mr Deakin said.
“Without [the money], I would have had to have gone back to selling myself.”
In October 2015, Mr Jones informed Mr Deakin he would no longer be providing money, stating in a letter, “I cannot afford to provide you with any further assistance, and put my own future at risk and become a burden on my family”.
Mr Deakin said to him the letter was “sudden”.
“I felt like I was just being thrown away and just discarded … he had no concept how reliant I was [on his money].”
Crown prosecutor Elizabeth Wren challenged Mr Deakin’s version of events in court, stating Mr Jones’ letter was not sudden and that he had been trying for some time to “extricate himself” from the monetary demands.
She said Mr Jones would never financially recover from the money he both voluntarily gave and was defrauded of, and that his retirement had been “significantly impacted”.
She also suggested that while Mr Deakin may have felt justified in his offending, he only began his deception “after the victim told him there would be no more money”.
“Is it the case you felt morally justified to defraud him when you weren’t being supported?” she asked.
“At the time, yes,” Mr Deakin replied.
“Today, I feel remorseful.”
“So today, do you recognise you have no moral standing to defraud him?” Ms Wren asked.
“Part of me yes, part of me no,” Mr Deakin said.
She also challenged how Mr Jones and Mr Deakin met, stating Mr Jones could not have known Mr Deakin was underage at the time they had a relationship.
“As someone substantially older, he should have known better,” Mr Deakin said.
“I was young, I was still in high school [and it’s my understanding he knew this].”
He said he felt “justified” when committing the offences, as he felt Mr Jones had taken advantage of him when he was younger.
“Now that I’m sober, I’m truly sorry how this has impacted on his quality of life,” Mr Deakin said.
“I wish I hadn’t got to the point of desperation that I had.”
His defence lawyer Mr Maher argued that while Mr Deakin did willingly approach people in chat rooms to receive money for sexual favours, it was “not something he did for pleasure”.
“His life has themes of abandonment, feelings of neglect, rejection and financial insecurity, which in some ways fed into his dependence on other people for financial support,” he said.
“He saw Mr Jones as someone who’d taken advantage of him years earlier, and then abandoned him much later.”
Chief Justice Lucy McCallum said she was “deeply troubled” by the evidence given by Mr Deakin about Mr Jones.
“I don’t have anything other than his own evidence about his background,” she said.
“It’s very difficult for this court to gauge how clearly the offender was vulnerable while also actively and deliberately prostituting himself.
“Either way, the offender’s sense of vulnerability appears to have been real … so it doesn’t matter if he was 15 or 16.”
Mr Deakin, who currently lives in Victoria, previously pleaded guilty to one count of dishonestly obtaining property by deception after defrauding his victim of $718,904 between 2016 and 2018.
He will be sentenced on Friday, 29 April.