Man jailed for raping and defrauding ex-partners of £214,000

Man jailed for raping and defrauding ex-partners of £214,000

Image source, Police Scotland

Image subtitle, Harkins, 37, received sums ranging from £350 to £72,525 from his victims.

A rapist who abused and stole £214,000 from nine women he met online has been jailed for 12 years.

Christopher Harkins, 37, used Facebook and the dating app Tinder to target his victims across Scotland over a six-year period.

The gambling addict stole the identities of several women to gain access to payroll loans and forced one of them to create an online betting account in his name.

A court heard that Harkins pretended his bank account had been frozen and told victims he needed money to keep his business running.

He took amounts ranging from £350 to £72,525 and also solicited money from some women to book non-existent holidays.

Police Scotland described the conman as a “violent and despicable individual”.

Harkins, of Helensburgh, Argyll and Bute, previously pleaded guilty at Paisley High Court to 11 frauds.

He was also found guilty after trial of raping a victim while she slept, assault with a risk of death and four sexual offences.

The crimes were committed in Glasgow, Paisley, Lanarkshire, Inverclyde, Stirling, Edinburgh, West Lothian and London between 2013 and 2019.

Image subtitle, Harkins, 37, used dating app Tinder and Facebook to target his victims across Scotland over a six-year period

Harkins had already been jailed for 15 months last year for defrauding £16,000 from a finance worker he met online, after convincing her he ran his own currency exchange and would pay her back.

He was sentenced for his latest offences at Kilmarnock High Court on Wednesday.

Judge Alistair Watson told Harkins he targeted single women on dating websites and worked to gain their trust.

The con artist presented himself as a successful businessman before making up stories about why he needed short-term loans.

The judge said some women borrowed money to help him, while others lent him their savings.

He added: “Once you achieved your goal with each victim, you moved on to the next and repeated the process, leaving a trail of emotional devastation and financial suffering.

“The degree of damage you caused is extremely high.

“Many of his victims were deprived of all or some of their personal savings, leaving some in financial hardship.”

‘Devastating psychological effect’

Judge Watson said Harkins’ “romantic scam” was a calculated plan to exploit his victims.

He added: “It is clear that this particular type of fraud is likely to have a devastating psychological effect on victims, regardless of any financial loss to them.

“I have taken the time to read the impact statements provided by several victims of these crimes.

“They describe in detail the feelings of shame, humiliation, stress and exhaustion they suffered as a result of their criminal conduct.”

He told the court that the background reports described conduct “designed to exert power and influence over women.”

Harkins was given indefinite non-harassment orders for each victim, prohibiting him from approaching them within 100 yards.

He was also placed on the sex offenders’ register indefinitely.

After sentencing, Chief Inspector Lyndsay Laird said: “Christopher Harkins is a violent and despicable individual who preyed on women looking for love and companionship.

“He made them believe they were in a loving, exclusive relationship, but that was nowhere near the truth.”

The senior officer said the conman’s sole motive was money and that once he formed relationships he resorted to “manipulation, threats, coercive control and violence” to fund his lavish lifestyle.

Chief Inspector Laird added: “The fact he was convicted is a huge credit to the women who came forward to police.”

“This case highlights that domestic abuse is not just physical or sexual, but includes abusive behavior or financial abuse.

“It’s often about power and control and can have life-changing consequences for victims.”