Vic doctor who scammed patients jailed

A gambling addict doctor who swindled 19 people, including patients, out of almost $800,000 has been sentenced to three years in jail.

Abraham Stephanson, 50, appeared in the County Court of Victoria on Tuesday after pleading guilty to 19 charges including obtaining financial advantage by deception.

He must serve a minimum of 18 months before becoming eligible for parole.

Judge George Georgiou said Stephanson, who had a prior criminal history, exploited his position as a trusted doctor to fund his habit.

"It is plain in my opinion that you were addicted to gambling and that's why you offended," the judge said.

Stephanson solicited thousands of dollars between 2019 and 2020 from 19 people, most of whom were his patients.

He claimed the funds were to treat his father's terminal cancer, but instead he used the money to spend on popular online betting website Betfair and to pay bills.

His father was first diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2014 and myeloma in 2017, and used his own money to pay for treatment.

The court was told how the divorced father targeted unsuspecting victims, sometimes during medical consultations and had them sign loan documents after requesting money.

In one instance, a patient sought financial advice on where to invest money during a routine check-up and Stephanson convinced the man to lend him $75,000.

Stephanson borrowed the money under the guise that it would be used to complete cancer treatment for his father, however the money was then transferred to his online betting account the same day it was received.

Stephanson's victims expressed feelings of betrayal and breach of trust in impact statements read out in court.

The judge said many of them felt "foolish" and "gullible" for believing everything they were told.

Earlier this year, Stephanson sold his Portland property for $1.57 million to repay his victims.

Judge Georgiou took into account Stephanson's diagnosed mental health conditions, including gambling disorder, major depressive disorder and complex post-traumatic stress disorder from a troubled childhood when handing down the custodial sentence.

"There is thus a nexus between your mental health disorders, your gambling and your offending," the judge said.

"The impact of your mental health does in my opinion lead to some evolution in the level of your moral culpability and the need for denunciation."

In 2005, Stephanson, formerly Stephanopoulos, was convicted on three charges of knowingly possessing child pornography and received a five-month suspended jail sentence and a fine.

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