Priest and nun lose life savings to cancer scammer


conmanAn Adelaide priest and nun scammed out of more than $180,000 by a woman who pretended to have terminal cancer have told the Adelaide Magistrates Court of their shock, betrayal and devastation.

Angie Emma Walsh, 40, cried in the dock as her victims read emotional statements to the court, detailing how the mother-of-one manipulated them into giving her money for “life-saving” cancer treatment.

The court heard the offending against Sister Theresa Swiggs started in 2012, but that Walsh had been “grooming her” for a long time prior.

Sister Swiggs enlisted the help of Father Bill Brady and her biological sister to assist in funding the medical treatment Walsh claimed to need, giving her $184,151 in total over two-and-a-half years.

“I’ve been utterly devastated by the realisation that nearly everything that Angie Walsh told me about her life and situation, her mother and other family members, has been a series of lies and falsehoods,” Sister Swiggs said.

“I’m completely overwhelmed by what has happened and I have been suffering terribly because of this.”

The court heard a high level of research and planning went into the scheme, that Walsh would detail her symptoms and the required treatment, and that at one stage she claimed to need $7,000 for a slow-release medication to stay alive.

Instead, the court heard she used the money to live beyond her means and that at one point during the scam she was making transactions at Seaworld and Dreamworld in Queensland.

Sister Swiggs told the court Walsh had abused her trust and manipulated her so deeply she was left filled with “anger, embarrassment and emptiness.”

“I have found Angie’s lies so deeply offensive, especially that there is no cancer, I feel so cheated and devastated that she continuously lied to me about so many parts of her life,” she said.

“The essence of who I am has been shattered, my future work is in jeopardy and the trauma I have been experiencing is unimaginable.

“This has all rattled me and shaken me to the core of my being.

“I will never be the same again and I am now even wondering if I will ever be able to continue in my role as pastoral chaplain support.”

The court heard Sister Swigg’s sister had lost all of her life savings to Walsh’s scam.

Priest Bill Brady, 72, said his financial loss totalled $77,000 which was all paid out in cash.

“Shock was the initial reaction….This was immediately joined by anger and embarrassment when I realised that others would see him as a complete fool,” he said.

“I’ve never felt so low in my life.”

The court heard Walsh had a criminal history spanning nearly 20 years littered with theft, dishonesty and fraud offences committed in Western Australia and South Australia.

In 2010 she received a suspended sentence for siphoning more than $8,000 out of the Victor Harbor community.

The local newspaper campaigned to raise the funds after she gave emotional interviews, claiming to have terminal cancer and unable to afford the treatment.

She was also released on a good-behaviour bond for falsely using her mother-in-law’s name to carry out $30,000 in credit card theft.