They had cried in each others arms. He was there, wonderfully supportive, beside the gurney as she was wheeled into the operating theatre, and he lovingly cared for her as she fought the cancer that threatened her life.
“Glenn was by my side through the worst time of my life,” Patrice O’Brien remembered.
She met Glenn Comensoli two years ago. An outwardly successful businessman and horse trainer, he expressed words of wealth with a canter of self confidence.
But like many others, she did not see through him until it was too late.
She – and her father and two younger brothers – was the latest target of a heartless conman, later branded in court a “devious, cunning and convincing liar” whose cruelty was “beyond human comprehension”.
The depth of the emotional harm and financial loss he inflicted on dozens of victims can be told after his jailing for more than six years by Melbourne judge Geoffrey Chettle, who categorised him as a conman and liar.
Judge Chettle heard that Ms O’Brien was like other women Comensoli fed off – some with serious health issues or grieving the loss of loved ones. They sympathised with his sad and convincing lies, and handed over their money.
Comensoli admitted deception offences of almost $30,000 against the O’Briens, committed while on bail for other charges.
He also financially ruined Glenn Hayes, a Bendigo glazier, stealing $195,000 as Mr Hayes’ wife fought cancer.
For this, Comensoli, 41, formerly of Wangaratta, had pleaded guilty to charges of theft, obtaining property by deception and false documents offences involving more than 30 customers of Mr Hayes’ between 2011 and 2012.
Prosecutor David Cordy warned that anything Comensoli said – including that he suffered from gambling addiction – should be treated with the “utmost caution and suspicion”. “He is clearly a person no-one can believe a single word he says.”
Mr Cordy told Judge Chettle that Comensoli had exhibited all the qualities of a successful conman, and that the “extent of his cruelty in relation to some of the [victims] is breathtaking and beyond human comprehension”.
The court heard that when Comensoli approached Ms O’Brien’s father Mick for his blessing to marry his daughter, he also convinced him to write a $4000 cheque, saying it was for a wedding ring. The previous day he had scammed his bride-to-be’s brother for $5000 for a “special weekend away” to propose to her.
Later, when Ms O’Brien had been through surgery for her cancer and was in the recovery ward, Comensoli convinced her to give him her ATM card and PIN to he could withdraw $200 to “see him through for a couple of days”. Instead, he withdrew $800, and when he returned lied that he withdrew it for a needy nephew.
In her statement to the court, Ms O’Brien said she realised Comensoli’s stories about money “were not adding up” and repeatedly begged him “to be honest with me”.
“On all of these occasions he would hug me, tell me how much he loved me and repeatedly, insistently and passionately reassured me that there was nothing going on,” she said.
In their joint victim impact statement, Mick O’Brien and his wife Margaret described their disgust at the “blatant betrayal” of the trust they extended by inviting Comensoli into their family.
The court heard that another woman swindled by Comensoli was left feeling ashamed, humiliated and embarrassed, and had suffered hair loss.
In sentencing, Judge Chettle said he accepted that Comensoli had gambled the stolen money, and that he had an “entrenched gambling disorder” with traits of depression and anxiety.
His current partner gave evidence that he was remorseful for his crimes and references from friends spoke of his “changed ways”. The court heard counselling sessions provided some hope for his future, but the judge regarded his prospects of rehabilitation as bleak.
In setting a minimum term of four years and three months, Judge Chettle acknowledged his guilty pleas and said he wanted to avoid a “crushing” sentence, but noted also that Comensoli – who has had three earlier court appearances for dishonesty – had not been deterred by previous warnings.
Ms O’Brien said the experience had led to her losing some innocence and faith in humanity after the man she thought loved her through dark days was actually taking advantage of her vulnerability “lying to me, and stealing from me and my family”.
She now believes she has a good job, and life ahead and feels she can “thrive, not just survive”. “Glenn’s crimes are his to own, and does not have the power to take any of that away from me”.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.