A WOMAN who fleeced neighbours out of more than £100,000 during a six-month period to fund her massive gambling habit has been jailed.
Karen Kowlessar befriended other women in the sleepy cul-de-sac and persuaded them to invest large sums of money in her boyfriend’s company.
The 45-year-old even helped a vulnerable victim fill in the forms to take out £20,000 in of bank loans with the promise of high returns on her cash.
But in reality Kowlessar was using the money to fund her online gambling addiction, which was costing her hundreds of thousands of pounds.
And when her partner confronted her about what had been going on after one of the victims asked about her investment she told him, ‘Well it’s all gone now.’ Rob Welling, prosecuting, told Swindon Crown Court the defendant moved in with her boyfriend in 2006 and befriended some of the neighbours in Haydon Wick.
In early 2007 she approached them with an investment opportunity in her boyfriend’s company.
She said if they put in £10,000 it would return £500 a month, plus the money back at the end of the year and a share in the profits.
He said one of the victims had learning difficulties, making her easily influenced, and she also had difficulties reading and writing.
However, Kowlessar persuaded her to take out two loans, each for £10,000, and hand her the money, which she said she would invest.
Kowlessar also went to a retired teacher a number of times, first getting investments and then pleading for loans, taking £70,000 of savings and inheritance from the woman.
Mr Welling said while a couple of early repayments were made to the women Kowlessar gambled the rest of it away.
Concerned about what had happened one of the woman spoke to Kowlessar’s boyfriend who knew nothing of the deception.
Initially the defendant agreed to pay back what she had taken but when she could not the police were called and she was arrested.
Mr Welling said she took about £105,000 from three women and paid back less than £13,000.
When her computer was examined it was found she had immediately used the money to gamble, blowing hundreds of thousands of pounds on bookmaker websites.
Kowlessar, now living in north London, pleaded guilty to 11 counts of fraud.
Manjit Dogra, defending, said her client accepted what she had done, although she claimed she had paid back nearer £21,000.
She said she had been subject to a gambling addiction after a family bereavement and moving to Swindon with her new partner, unsure if the relationship would continue.
When she befriended the victims it wasn’t with a view to cheating them, she said, but when she needed money she hatched the plan, planning to pay them back.
“Miss Kowlessar said ‘The reason I wasn’t able to pay them back was because I wasn’t winning enough,’” she said.
Miss Dogra said her client had conquered the addiction and was full of remorse.
Jailing her for three years Judge Euan Ambrose said: “They were wicked offences in the sense that they have devastating consequences for the financial health of your victims. But also because they exploited friendships you had with these three women.”