A convicted fraudster was handed a new four-and-a-half jail term on Wednesday after admitting to swindling 36 unsuspecting victims weeks after serving jail time.

Alexia Cross Micallef, 45, was arraigned under arrest last month to face a raft of charges on the basis of 24 reports by persons who claimed that she had offered them properties for rent which were already occupied by third parties.

The “landlady” took their money and simply disappeared, the victims had reported.

The woman initially pleaded not guilty when arraigned in June. When her case continued on Wednesday, the prosecution informed the court that the charges were to be increased from 25 to 48 on the basis of 12 new reports by other victims who had stepped forward after hearing about the case.

Meanwhile, assisted by a new legal team, Cross Micallef informed Magistrate Monica Vella that she wished to register an admission.

Defence lawyer Nicholas Mifsud pointed out to the court that his client had cooperated with investigators, admitted in her statements to the police and was pleading guilty at an early stage. He added that she was requesting a treatment order and that in itself boded well.

The prosecution said that they were insisting on the restitution of the defrauded amounts, which exceeded €30,000.

The court was also informed that the parties were jointly suggesting a four-and a-half year jail term.

Magistrate Vella explained the implications of the admission to the accused, warning that the punishment could vary between three and seven years.

Cross Micallef confirmed her plea and requested rehabilitation care, admitting that she had a drug problem.

After taking note of the early guilty plea, the accused’s cooperation, the gravity of the charges and the considerable number of victims, the court condemned her to a four-and-a-half-year term and issued a treatment and supervision order for five years to cover the accused once she had served jail time, “seeing that she had stepped out of jail weeks ago.”

Reimbursement must be made within six months of fraudster leaving prison

She was also ordered to reimburse the victims within six months of serving her term, She has six months to do so after leaving prison, failing which she would be liable to re-imprisonment and further court action.

Senior Inspector Clayton Camilleri and Inspectors Joseph Mallia and Francesco Mizzi prosecuted. Lawyer Nicholas Mifsud and legal procurator Colin Galea were defence counsel. Lawyer Stephanie Caruana represented the victims.

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