A "morally repugnant" scammer ripped off drought-ravaged farmers through a dodgy hay bale scheme because he was addicted to cocaine and in debt to bikies.
Matthew Lewis Small sobbed from a room in Junee prison as he was sentenced to at least 18 months in jail after he was convicted of a litany of fraud offences.
The 27-year-old was condemned by magistrate Theo Tsavdaridis for ripping off 24 vulnerable and unsuspecting farmers across the state in 2018 and 2019.
He was also ordered to pay back $92,334 to his victims after swindling them via a scam in which he used a series of aliases to post online ads offering discounted lucerne hay bales and firewood.
On all occasions, he failed to deliver after receiving payment.
"It was not only reprehensible, it was morally repugnant, a series of offending which was unprincipled and dishonourable," Mr Tsavdaridis told Fairfield Local Court.
"In my view, it was unscrupulous and unconscionable."
During their investigation, police received reports of victims in the Oxley, Mid North Coast, the Hunter Valley, the Southern Highlands, the Hills, Nepean, and Port Stephens areas.
Small was also convicted of four domestic violence offences for sending threatening emails and messages to his ex-partner threatening to kill her while she was pregnant.
He was sentenced to two years and four months for a series of crimes that drew ire across the state during the height of the summer bushfire crisis.
Mr Tsavdaridis said Small's victims had been "ravaged either by drought conditions or recent fires that had affected not only their livelihood, not only their livestock but also their families and personal circumstances and in some respects taken them to the brink of bankruptcy".
Appearing via audio visual link from prison, Small at times struggled to contain his emotions and became tearful as the court heard details of the spiral of drug addiction and debt that led to his crimes.
The court heard he was a former farmhand and had at times wanted to pay back his victims.
But he fell in too deep with the criminal underworld after developing a cocaine addiction and racking up heavy debts to bikie gangs.
"He ran into debt with some people who were associated with a bikie gang and started to rely on them," his lawyer Susanne Tenner said.
"He was doing a bit of work for them and then buying drugs off them. And then he accrued a significant debt over the years and that was the motivation behind the offences."
He was convicted of three charges related to the fake sale of firewood in 2018. However, he failed to appear in court, resulting in warrants being issued for his arrest.
The law eventually caught up with him earlier in the year when he was arrested at a Villawood property over the hay bale scam.
"He accepts the intention to defraud his victims, however, many times throughout his dealings there were times that he wanted to honour his promises," Ms Tenner said.
"However, he got into so much of a mess, it was hard to find a way out or know what to do."
Small will be eligible for parole in July next year.
Australian Associated Press