'Energetic fraudster' misused job as a cop to take over empty homes (7 Pics)

A senior Victorian policewoman used her position and uniform to help her take over six properties owned by strangers under laws dubbed squatters' rights.
Rosa Catherine Rossi, formerly a sergeant with Victoria Police, identified vacant properties and had locksmiths change the locks - without the property owners knowing - in an attempt to take control of the homes during a crime spree across 2016 and 2017.
Sergeant Rosa Rossi in 2016.
Sergeant Rosa Rossi in 2016.CREDIT:DAMJAN JANEVSKI
Rossi targeted three properties in Willaura, near Ararat, and three in Melbourne's suburbs and claimed them as her own under adverse possession laws, the County Court heard on Friday.
Adverse possession - colloquially dubbed squatters' rights - entitles someone to legally own a vacant property if they can prove they have exclusively occupied it for at least 15 years.
Rossi researched the obscure laws before identifying suitable homes and fraudulently requesting councils and utility companies transfer documents into her name.
She then rented the homes out, prosecutor Peter Pickering said, and was paid $10,000 by a couple who stayed at a Chadstone property for several months, and was paid $3000 in rent for a Brooklyn home.
The real owners were people who lived overseas, had moved interstate or purchased the properties for investment or demolition.
As Rossi's offending became more brazen, she visited the Hobsons Bay Council offices in her police uniform and had a staffer provide the contact details for the real owner of the Brooklyn home. Mr Pickering said the police officer insisted the council worker write down the owner's details rather than email them.
On another occasion, Rossi misused Victoria Police's database to gain information about a property owner. She also helped a couple deceive Centrelink so they could get more benefits and she could be paid rent money.
The owner of one Willaura home told the court he was living in South Africa when friends contacted him to alert him of trespassers on the Victorian property.
When police were called, the court heard, Rossi told officers she was a police officer and was considering buying the home.
She and the owner later negotiated for her to buy the property on the condition that he wouldn't press charges, until she sent a cheque that bounced and eventually said she couldn't get a loan.
The man, a disability pensioner, said Rossi had been charming and apologetic, but he later discovered sentimental items missing from inside the home. He said the saga caused him stress and financial problems.
"I still feel stupid and used by Rosa Rossi and this situation doesn't make sense to me," he said.
"One minute she was buying the house and the next I was being stabbed in the back."
Rossi, 57, was charged by Victoria's anti-corruption investigators and pleaded guilty to charges including obtaining property by deception, perjury and gaining unauthorised access to the police database.
The scam ultimately cost her career as she told the court she was now working on a farm and as a hairdresser.
Her lawyers say she has depression and a personality disorder, but Judge Martine Marich challenged suggestions Rossi misunderstood the laws and "hoped" to one day take control of the properties. She was instead an "enthusiastic fraudster".
"I see deliberate and egregious fraud designed to oust the true owner," said Judge Marich, who likened the offending to that of a Walter Mitty-type character whose aims were delusional.
Judge Marich also noted Rossi began with small properties in Willaura before setting her sights higher. The Chadstone property was valued at more than $800,000 and one in Malvern was worth almost $1 million.
Rossi had her bail extended to return to court on June 12, when her lawyers will outline their defence submissions.
'Energetic fraudster' misused job as a cop to take over empty homes (7 Pics) 'Energetic fraudster' misused job as a cop to take over empty homes (7 Pics) Reviewed by STATION GOSSIP on 03:02 Rating: 5

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