Damjan Janevski via 9 News

Australian Police Officer Misused Position To Scam Properties From Their Owners

An Australian police officer has pleaded guilty to abusing her position as a cop in order to scam properties from their owners, ABC News reported.

57-year-old Rosa Rossi of Victoria claimed squatters' rights on at least six properties between April 2016 and June 2017, using her job and her police uniform to aid in her crimes.

During her spree, Rossi would change the locks on vacant or neglected properties without the owners' knowledge.

Damjan Janevski via 9 News

She would then take over the homes and rent some of them out, contacting councils and utility companies while posing as the actual property owner to transfer documents into her name.

A neighbor to one such property caught Rossi attempting to enter the home in Willaura. However, as 9 News reported, Rossi identified herself as a police officer, showed the neighbor that she had keys, and insisted she was buying the property.

In fact, Rossi had even been confronted by police officers before, but had used her own position as a cop to get out of these situations.

Prosecutor Peter Pickering told the County Court of Victoria that Rossi had researched the legalities of "adverse possession" (AKA "squatters' rights").

Unsplash | Wesley Tingey

Through her research she learned that if a person acts as if the property has been theirs for 15 years, it becomes theirs.

"It is an oblique area of the law, hardly known, hardly traversed," Pickering explained. "Ms. Rossi was using dishonest means in what she saw was a legitimate end."

During her 2016-2017 crime spree, Rossi gradually began to target more and more expensive properties.

Damjan Janevski via 9 News

Initially she started off rather small, obtaining homes that cost $50,000 and $108,500, respectively. But soon she set her eyes on significantly bigger prizes, including a home in Malvern worth almost $1 million.

The actual owners of the homes Rossi targeted all lived overseas, had recently moved interstate, or had purchased the properties as an investment or simply for demolition purposes.

Rossi has resigned from Victoria Police and pleaded guilty to nine charges.

ABC News

These include obtaining property by deception, perjury, and unauthorized access to police information following an anti-corruption investigation.

Rossi's defense lawyers claim she was depressed and had a maladaptive personality disorder during the period her crimes were committed. They also claimed she had "misunderstood" the law and simply "hoped" one day to assume ownership of the properties. However Judge Martine Marich challenged this defense and instead branded Rossi an "enthusiastic fraudster".

Rossi is out on bail and is due back in court on June 12.

h/t: 9 News, ABC News