Tinder predator attacked women and scammed them out of £214,000

Christopher Harkins, 37, targeted women across the country using Facebook and Tinder with victims in Glasgow, London and Edinburgh.

Tinder predator attacked women across Scotland and scammed them out of £214,000 Police Scotland

A man convicted of sexual and violent offences, including rape, “preyed on women looking for love and companionship” scamming them out of £214,000.

Christopher Harkins, 37, targeted women between 2013 and 2019 – using Facebook and the dating app Tinder – with victims across the country including Glasgow, London, Lanarkshire, Inverclyde, Edinburgh, Stirling, Paisley and West Lothian.

Harkins falsely used some of his nine victims’ names to receive payday loans and made one of the women create an online betting account in her name.

The gambling addict used cash from her bank to place bets.

Harkins convinced his victims that his bank account was frozen and that he required funds to pay clients and those working for him.

“Harkins met the women through a dating app and once he had formed relationships with them he turned to manipulation, threats, coercive control and violence to obtain thousands of pounds which he used to fund his very lavish lifestyle”

Detective inspector Iain Renfrew, Police Scotland

He also pretended to book holidays and received money from some of the women towards the fictional trips.

The amounts Harkins took from the women ranged between £350 and £72,525.

He also raped one of his fraud victims while she was asleep.

Harkins, of Helensburgh, was jailed for 15 months last year after he defrauded a financial professional he met online out of £16,000.

He made his victim believe he had his own currency exchange business and would pay her back.

She paid for a luxury holiday to Greece that Harkins never actually booked, and also agreed to cover what she believed were his business debts.

The victim, from London, was left £16,700 out of pocket and has never seen any of it repaid.

Harkins pled guilty at the High Court in Paisley to the latest series of charges which included 11 separate frauds.

He went on trial on a number of other charges and was convicted of a single charge of rape and four sexual offences.

He was also found guilty of assaulting one of the women to the danger of her life.

The charges span between January 2013 and November 2019.

Judge Alistair Watson said: “This was an appalling catalogue of financial, physical and occasional sexual abuse of your victims.

“You repeatedly portrayed yourself as a successful person when in fact you are not.

“You contacted young women of varying degrees of vulnerability and exploited those.

“You did this over a number of years moving from victim to victim ruining lives as you went along.

“The harm you caused to your victims in this cannot be overstated.”

Harkins shook his head after the verdict and denied ever raping anyone.

The trial heard from a 31-year-old woman who met Harkins on the Tinder dating app in August 2018.

Harkins claimed to her that he was an IT manager who also ran a wholesale currency exchange business.

He said he needed money to pay people working for him as his bank account was “frozen”.

He also stated that he needed money to pay for furniture and claimed he would split cash for a booked holiday with her to Cape Verde.

However, Harkins kept the total of £9,033 he took from the woman for himself.

She said she caught Harkins trying to have sex with her when she was asleep at his home in Cumbernauld, North Lanarkshire.

Harkins later became involved in a relationship with another woman he had met on Tinder previously.

He told her that he was a financially successful IT employee and made out that he was leading a “lavish lifestyle”.

Harkins convinced the woman to set up an online Betfair account in her name as he claimed his was suspended.

He also asked the woman to use her overdrafts facilities to apply for loans in both her name and to act as a guarantor.

Harkins asked for her share to pay a money for a luxurious weekend holiday to Loch Lomond.

He said that he would pay the money back to her which included claims that he was due £10,000 from a gambling debt.

Harkins used excuses such as his bank account being frozen for 28 working days rather than 28 calendar days for the delays in repayment.

Harkins took a total of £75,525 from her between December 2018 and April 2019.

He also received a further £75,300 from another woman who he met on Facebook in 2019 when he claimed he was an engineer with a currency exchange business.

He claimed his bank account was “frozen” and asked the woman to loan him money which she did in various amounts as she felt “pressured”.

Harkins said that some of the cash was to pay back a group of friends and that he would repay it.

Harkins pretended that he had a job offer in Southampton and required cash to pay for the course.

He then sent his victim a screenshot of an apparent offer and the woman sent £2,400 from her credit card.

Harkins became abusive towards her when she asked for the money back and became angry when she told his mother.

Harkins took £20,000 from another woman after he provided false information to a loan company in her name.

He told another partner he met on Tinder that he booked a holiday to Greece and required her share.

Another victim gave Harkins £25,000 which he claimed was to fund connections for his employment and business which has not been paid back.

Harkins initially bought her flowers and gifts and took her on a holiday to London which he paid for.

He set up a payday loan using her details when she was not present.

The woman was later convinced to hand over the money in cash in separate installments.

Another woman handed over £1,576 for her share of a holiday to Jamaica which he had not booked.

Harkins’ earliest victim stated that she was added by him on Facebook in 2012.

She claimed “extravagant” Harkins bought her champagne and “over the top” gifts but their relationship later “changed”.

Harkins persuaded her to take out a loan for a sofa from DFS for the flat they moved into and to have spending money for a holiday which cost her £3,000.

He also took out a £1,000 loan in her name by providing false information.

The woman recalled days in the property where she went without heating and electricity.

She stated that Harkins made her “walk on egg shells” and was violent towards her during three separate incidents.

This included him grabbing her face and kicking her on the stomach after she was pushed out of the property in her pyjamas.

Another told the court that “manipulative and controlling” Harkins met her on Facebook in 2015.

She said that he was violent towards her which included pinning her to a bed and putting his hand around her neck to the point she was unable to breathe.

She told the court: “I thought this is it, this is awful, this is how I’m going to die.”

The woman told jurors that she went to the police about Harkins in 2015 but was not taken seriously.

She claimed that one of the officers compared the choking incident to a “square go”.

A fourth woman who gave evidence at trial also met Harkins online.

Harkins recorded himself performing a sex act on the woman and sent it to her for the purposes of obtaining sexual gratification or of humiliating, distressing or alarming her.

Harkins admitted taking £1,300 from her after claiming he had booked a holiday and a mobile phone for her and required cash as he was locked out of his account.

Police Scotland detective inspector Iain Renfrew said Harkins was a “violent and contemptable individual who preyed on women looking for love and companionship”.

“He made them believe they were in a loving and exclusive relationship but that was nowhere near the truth,” he said.

“His only motive was money. 

“Harkins met the women through a dating app and once he had formed relationships with them he turned to manipulation, threats, coercive control and violence to obtain thousands of pounds which he used to fund his very lavish lifestyle.

“The fact that he had been convicted is a tremendous credit to the women who came forward to police. Their testimony is why he has been convicted today.”

Sentence was deferred pending background reports until July at the High Court in Kilmarnock.

Harkins had his remand in custody continued meantime.

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