A man who spent several years online soliciting illicit images and videos from underage girls - and who, in one instance, impersonated one of his victims' teachers in order to groom her - says he is ashamed of his behaviour.
Gerard Daniel Lazarus, 47, gave evidence before Newcastle District Court via video-link from jail at Cessnock on Friday ahead of his sentencing for 12 charges - including several counts of using a carriage service to transmit and solicit child pornography.
Lazarus, who has been in custody since his arrest in mid-2020, told the court that he began communicating in a sexual way with others online amid loneliness brought on by being away from his family for fly-in-fly-out work.
What began as chatting with adult women who were pretending to be teenagers, the court heard, led to the electrician having degrading conversations with - and soliciting illicit images from - underage girls.
"Ashamed - utter shame," the father told the court when asked how he felt about his crimes.
The court heard that a victim asked if he was one of her teachers and Lazarus told her he was, continuing the deception while grooming and soliciting illicit material from her.
Lazarus's conduct came to the attention of police in December 2018 when the teacher made a "self-report" to the NSW Board of Education after the girl contacted him.
That teacher, who cannot be identified, was then subjected to an investigation - he was found to have never communicated with the girl online.
In court on Friday, Lazarus was told that the teacher had suffered significant mental health problems because of the offending.
"I'm just so sorry for the damage that I've caused ... to his reputation, to his mental health and I hope he's able to recover his position in society that I've damaged," Lazarus said.
When asked if the crimes, which began in 2013, would have continued if not for the involvement of the Australian Federal Police when he was arrested in 2020, Lazarus told Crown Prosecutor Vasudha Sathanapally: "there's nothing to suggest otherwise, miss".
Lazarus will be sentenced on March 4.
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