Conman who duped his Derry fiancée out of £4,500 for bogus wedding trip is jailed
A swindler who scammed more than £4,500 from a Northern Ireland woman and her family to pay for flights to their wedding in the US has been jailed.
Matt Jaeger was sentenced to 12 months after appearing at Londonderry Magistrates' Court yesterday.
The 50-year-old told his victim, who is from Londonderry and to whom he was engaged following a whirlwind romance, that he owned a ranch at Fort Worth in Texas where their wedding would take place.
However, his fiancée's brother became suspicious when no plane tickets arrived for the trip to Dallas.
Jaeger, from Albany Street Lane in Edinburgh, was later arrested and eventually pleaded guilty to taking money from two of his fiancée's credit card accounts and defrauding her and her family of £4,560.
A prosecution solicitor told District Judge Barney McElholm that Jaeger went to ground after committing the offences between July 31, 2010, and November 11, 2011. She said Jaeger was eventually traced and arrested following an extensive PSNI investigation, assisted by Interpol.
The prosecutor said that when he committed the offences, Jaeger worked with a company in Scotland and the victim's son had applied for a job with the firm.
"As part of the application process, the defendant travelled to the injured party's home to interview her son in her presence," she said. "The interview was on February 24, 2010. The following day, the defendant arrived at the injured party's work place and took her for a coffee."
A relationship started and he left Northern Ireland the next day to return to Scotland. The relationship developed through "phone calls and emails".
The prosecutor said Jaeger told his victim he couldn't return to Northern Ireland because his father was dying and he himself had been injured in a road traffic accident.
"In July 2010, the defendant came to Northern Ireland on a ferry, with his dog, as a foot passenger," she added.
"He told the injured party he wanted to stay with her in her home. On July 17, 2010, the defendant and the injured party were at a function and at the function the defendant proposed to her and she accepted."
Jaeger told his now fiancée that his passport, wallet and credit cards had been stolen, and she financed him.
The wedding was arranged for November 19, 2010, at the ranch he said he owned in Fort Worth, Texas. "In preparation for the wedding in Texas the defendant told the injured party that he had a friend called Martin who owned a company which purchased corporate flight tickets at reduced prices," the prosecutor added. "He said he could obtain cheap flights to Texas but that they would have to be paid for in cash."
The injured party and seven members of her family gave Jaeger £4,560 for the flights but, as the wedding day neared, the victim's brother became suspicious because no tickets had arrived. Jaeger said there had been a mix-up and that the tickets would be issued soon.
On November 2, 2010, Jaeger said he was going for a job interview in Austria.
On November 10, just nine days before the wedding, he told his fiancée that his friend Martin's business had gone under. Jaeger did not return to Northern Ireland but continued to email his fiancée, once telling her he was in hospital being treated for cancer.
The prosecutor said Jaeger's offending was uncovered by a combination of the suspicions of his fiancée's brother and because of letters from two of the victim's credit card companies stating her accounts were overdrawn.
Most of the unapproved transactions were carried out outside Northern Ireland.
The solicitor said the PSNI and Interpol believed Jaeger had committed similar offences in Scotland, England and possibly in the US, but his victims had not made complaints against him because of their shame and embarrassment.
The injured party had scraped together money to fully repay her family members who had been duped by Jaeger, and her credit card companies, Marks and Spencer and Capital One, had reimbursed her and absorbed the losses.
The prosecutor said when Jaeger was eventually tracked down on August 23 last year he originally denied the offences before latterly pleading guilty.
Defence barrister Stephen Mooney said when he read the evidence in the case against Jaeger he was taken aback by the bizarre and astonishing criminality perpetrated by him. He said the evidence against Jaeger was colossal.
"His guilty pleas are unequivocal pleas," Mr Mooney said.
The barrister said there were no psychiatric issues in the case, nor was Jaeger a Walter Mitty character. "Quite simply, the case is what it is," he said.
Mr Mooney said in mitigation that Jaeger had pleaded guilty and had come before the court with a clear record.
He said the offences were not of a sexual nor of a violent nature.
Jailing Jaeger for the maximum of 12 months, Judge McElholm said his offences were absolutely despicable.
"He wormed his way into this family and then he preyed upon them," he stated.
"He then has the gall to stand before me and ask me not to send him to prison, but he has not produced one penny piece in compensation for his victims.
"This is a man who has had since 2010 to compensate the people he defrauded and swindled. He has shown himself to be nothing but a dishonest rogue."
Mr McElholm also ordered Jaeger to pay compensation of £4,560 to his victims and to pay £300 to Capital One and £556 to Marks and Spencer credit card companies, and gave Jaeger six months to pay.
The judge refused to release Jaeger on bail pending an appeal which will not take place until September at the earliest.