Photo on left: Times of Malta
A magistrate rubbed salt in the wounds of a Maltese professional fraudster, after he jailed her for eight years yesterday for scamming several people out of their rent money.
The fraudster, 33-year-old Alexia Micallef, previously Alexia Cross, reportedly sobbed in the dock as her lawyer told the court she had only devised the scheme after falling victim to loan sharks.
However, magistrate Francesco Depasquale took no pity on the woman, particularly since she was a convicted criminal and was indeed serving a suspended prison sentence which was due to expire in a few months.
“Mrs Micallef, I can’t say you didn’t do something wrong,” he was quoted as saying by MaltaToday. “What is more worrying to me is that you had already been given a warning and chose to ignore it. Now you are going to miss your children growing up.”
“You should have gone to the authorities. I want to give a message that if you have problems with usurers, you should go to the police and not try to solve it yourself.”
Alexia Micallef had found her victims after they posted they were searching for apartments for rent on Facebook groups.
On Wednesday, Lovin Malta spoke to one of those victims – Maksimilijan Kazakov, a Croatian national living in Malta, who had reported Micallef to the police after she scammed him of €1,500 in deposit money and money for the first month of rent.
Since then, we have received messages from several other tenants who had been scammed by Micallef – including Greek national Georgios Charalampakis who sent us screenshots of his Messenger conversations with her, which started with her instantly accepting his haggle to lower the monthly price from €300 to €250.
“We met up by the San Gwann parish church, and originally I didn’t understand why she would want to meet me there and drive me to the house, but now it makes sense,” he said. “In the car was a child, who I assumed was her son. Seeing a young child with us made me feel like this is a legit situation – like she had exposed herself and her family to me.”
Charalampakis’ story is very similar to Kazakov’s – Micallef took him to the house and he agreed to pay the deposit for it. He said she was in a hurry to collect the deposit, and indeed she didn’t even count the money when he paid her.
“I had heard of stories of people refusing to give the deposit back to the people and I have had people sending me ridiculous rental prices for single rooms or just beds, but I had never met a local person actively scamming people and learning that the police is doing nothing about it,” he told Lovin Malta.
Although Micallef is now behind bars, several questions marks still surround this story. When Kazakov visited the house, there were two girls inside it – ostensibly the tenants he was going to be replacing. He said a Filipino woman who had also been scammed by Micallef had found two men in the apartment when she visited.
The San Gwann apartment owners told the police Micallef was their maid, which would explain how she had keys to the flat. However, it does not explain what another scammed person, Radek Siewniak, told Lovin Malta – namely how Micallef had promised to give him a room in San Gwann but ended up giving him a room in Attard and refused to give him back his deposit when he moved out.
People commenting on the story also took the police to task for not taking action against Micallef sooner. Indeed, one woman said she had reported Micallef at the Spinola police station two weeks ago but the police refused to take the report, although they had known she was a serial fraudster.
Another man told Kazakov he and his girlfriend had been scammed by Micallef but eventually managed to get their money back from her.
“We went to the police in Spinola two weeks ago, but as we got our money back the police weren’t interested in getting her off the streets,” he said. “Our other option would have been a civil suit, but it would have been too costly for us to lawyer up. Essentially, the police allowed her to keep scamming people.”