Conwoman Sanaa Derbas jailed for dating scam targeting lonely men


Staff member
A Sydney conwoman who swindled more than $2 million from lonely men she met through online dating services has been jailed for at least 18 months.

After the sentence was delivered, Sanaa Derbas, 42, looked from the dock at her family, broke into tears and cried, "My kids please ... please."

Sanaa Derbas appearing in court earlier this month. Photo: Daniel Munoz
Inconsolable, she yelled out, "I love you", repeatedly to agitated and tearful family members before she was led away by Correctional Services officers.

The mother-of-four adopted multiple aliases and fabricated stories about being too poor to eat, her children dying and medical emergencies to drain the bank accounts of the men.

Sanaa Derbas kept elaborate notebooks with the details of men she had met. Photo: Facebook
Maintaining the rort for several years, she kept elaborate diaries with the contact numbers of hundreds of men and the bogus details she had given them about herself.

In the Downing Centre District Court on Thursday, Judge Paul Conlon said that Derbas had used "calculated cunning and guile" in preying on the benevolence of her victims.

Judge Conlon said she had shown an "unwavering determination" to "bleed them dry" over a considerable period of time.

"Those she targeted were lonely, vulnerable people. Vulnerable because each was craving companionship," Judge Conlon said.
Sanaa Derbas netted more than $2 million from seven men after telling elaborate stories. Photo: Faceb
Derbas pleaded guilty in August last year to 11 counts, relating to seven men, of dishonestly obtaining money by deception.

She befriended each of her victims through mobile phone-based dating services, Lavalife, Clique and Meeting Point, tricking them into thinking they were in some form of relationship before she asked to borrow money from them.

After sharing a coffee and dinner, Derbas stole more than $1.7 million from one man.

She told the man, 69, she needed the money to pay her mortgage and later claimed she could not repay it because her son had died of swine flu.

"Seeing my mum last night and feeling her cold body did something to me that I couldn't shake. Baby please don't leave me," she messaged another of her victims.

"No matter what you think, I do love you. For some beautiful reason I look forward to spending every day for the rest of me life with you … I just wish mum had met you," she wrote to another.

As well as concocting intricate back stories, Derbas would call the men from different phones assuming different identities to justify why her alias could not repay the money to them.

Police found 15 mobile phones during a search of her home, and exchanges with 20 men other than those connected to the charges for which she was sentenced.

For some of the men, her rort started when she asked them to deposit money into her bank account so she could book an expensive hotel for them in the city.

One victim, who transferred Derbas a total of $93,523, ended up questioning her legitimacy after she told him that her mother had died and she needed money for funeral costs.

When he told her that he was going to police, Derbas responded by saying, "How is borrowing money a fraud?"

The man later said to her: "I really hope u don't have kids that might have to pay a huge price when u get caught."

The court has heard that Derbas has now sold all her assets - including her house in south-western Sydney and three cars - in a bid to pay the money back. Reparation of $745,000 has so far been made.

She told a psychiatrist that her fraudulent behaviour started as a result of a drug debt and cocaine habit which caused her to spend $10,000 to $12,000 a week.

But Judge Conlon said her rort continued out of greed and, to use Derbas' own words, "became her new business".

Derbas was sentenced to a maximum of 3½ years' jail.

She will be eligible for parole in August 2018.