A ‘liar, a cheat and a dishonest rogue’ who ‘wormed his way into the affections’ of a woman and her family has been jailed for fraud.
Derry Magistrate’s Court heard 50-year-old Matt Jaeger went on the run for years after defrauding his fiancee and her family out of money.
While he was on the run, he continued to send messages to the woman and at one stage told her he had cancer.
The 50-year-old was jailed for a total of 12 months and ordered to pay over £5,000 compensation within the next six months.
Jaeger, of Albany Street Lane, Edinburgh, pleaded guilty to eight charges of fraud by false representation between July and November 2010.
The court heard in 2010 Jaeger was working for a company offering training courses.
The injured party’s son applied for one of these courses and Jaeger came to Derry to complete the application process.
After meeting the victim and her son in their home, Jaeger went to her work the following day and a relationship developed.
This continued after the defendant left Northern Ireland via phone calls and emails.
He agreed to come back to Derry on a number of occasions, but gave different excuses for why he couldn’t including the death of his father.
In July 2010 he came over on the ferry with some of his belongings and his dog. Jaeger told the victim he intended to settle here and moved into her home.
A short time later, the 50-year-old proposed to the victim and she accepted.
He then claimed he had his credit cards, passport and wallet stolen.
The victim ‘funded virtually everything throughout the course of their short relationship’.
Jaeger claimed he had a ranch in Texas and their wedding was ‘supposedly’ organised to be held there in November 2010.
He also claimed he could get flights through a contact at a corporate rate for the victim and her family.
Eight people gave money for these flights, totalling £4560.
The victims brother started to question the situation when they did not receive any confirmation about the booking.
Jaeger kept saying there must have been a mix up ‘but not to worry’ because his contact would sort it.
At the start of November, the defendant went to Austria, claiming he had a new job organised which was going to pay him a substantial amount of money.
Nine days before the wedding, he sent a text message to the victim claiming the firm organising the flights had gone bankrupt.
He never returned to Northern Ireland after that, however contacted the victim by text message on a number of occasions.
It one of these messages he claimed he was in hospital and had cancer.
The court heard Jaeger used two of the woman’s credit cards, racking up more that £1,000 in debt.
It was revealed Jaeger was not detained by police for six years, despite extensive searches.
Interpol was also made aware of a ‘vast amount’ of similar allegations about the defendant in England, Scotland and the US.
However, the court was told these victims ‘did not want to come forward and publicise the way in which they had been defrauded.
During police interview, the defendant claimed no definite wedding date had been set, but ‘it would have been in the pipeline’.
He also denied offering to buy flights and claimed he used the injured party’s credit cards with her authority.
The court heard the victim was ‘so embarrassed and ashamed’ by what happened she ‘scraped together the money to repay her family in full’.
It was revealed that seven years after the fraud, she is ‘still suffering from the effects’.
Defence counsel Steven Mooney said there is ‘precious little mitigation’ in this case and described the offences as ‘heinous’.
He said Jaeger does not have any psychological issues and is ‘not some sort of Walter Mitty character’.
The barrister told the court the 50-year-old would be able to pay full compensation to the injured party when his wages are paid.
He urged the court not to send the defendant to prison immediately, or ‘if that is a bridge too far,’ to give credit for the guilty plea.
Passing sentence, District Judge Barney McElholm said ‘these were absolutely despicable crimes. He wormed his way into this family and preyed on them’.
The judge said given Jaeger’s history of absconding he would not consider adjourning the case for compensation to be paid as ‘this man has had since 2010 to compensate the people he defrauded and made no attempt to do so’.
Referring to the probation pre-sentence report compiled on the defendant, the judge said it is ‘rare to see someone so lacking in remorse and humanity towards other fellow humans’.
He added: “This man cares about one person in this world and that is himself. He has shown himself to be a liar, a cheat and a dishonest rogue’.
The judge said the maximum sentence for the offences is six months but this was ‘wholly inadequate’.
“If he had sneaked into these peoples houses and stolen money or taken it out of their wallet, that is regarded as more serious as worming his way into affections and defrauding them.”
He told the court sentencing guidelines suggest he deal with all three separate classes of victim in this case together.
Judge McElholm questioned this stating ‘do individual victims not deserve someone to get sentenced in respect of the pain and suffering they have caused, to say nothing of the financial loss?’
The judge then agreed to fix bail for appeal.
However, he refused to release Jaeger and the case was listed for Monday, June 26.