Man sentenced for 69 fraud and distraction burglary offences


A man who has admitted committing 69 distraction burglary and fraud offences against elderly victims up and down the country has been sentenced to three years for fraud, five years for burglary to run concurrent.

Mark Rhodes, 25, of no fixed abode was arrested in Ipswich on Friday 1 May after his photo appeared in the Most Wanted section on BBC Crimewatch.

Although the offences he was suspected of committing took place nationwide, the investigation was led by Gloucestershire Constabulary, in consultation with the CPS South West Complex Casework Unit (CCU). Rhodes was questioned in Gloucester before being charged on the advice of the CPS, put before the courts and remanded in custody.

Appearing at Stroud Magistrates' Court on 3 June, Rhodes pleaded guilty to a total of 16 offences - eight distraction burglaries, and eight frauds.

He has since admitted committing a further 53 offences, all of which were taken into consideration by the sentencing judge at Gloucester Crown Court today (24 June).

The case has been handled throughout by Mary Harley, a lawyer from the South West CCU, who was the advocate in the Magistrates' Court as well as representing the Prosecution at Crown Court today.

DC Leigh Bickerdyke, Gloucestershire Constabulary's Artifice Crime Officer, said Rhodes preyed on vulnerable people: "Rhodes clearly targeted the elderly members of our communities and travelled vast distances in a short period of time to do so. He went to considerable lengths to research the areas and people who lived there to maximise his offending potential. He committed his crimes by taking advantage of his victims' charitable nature and deceiving them into believing he was genuine.

"Although many police forces were aware of his identity it was not easy to track him down due to his transient lifestyle.

"We took the lead in this investigation but we were reliant on help from officers from the other forces. By working together and with assistance from the media and Crimewatch we were able to locate and arrest Rhodes."

Mary Harley praised the commitment of the investigating officer who undertook the co-ordination of the investigations from across the country. She said:

"The officer contacted the CCU before the Crimewatch appeal so we were able to advise on charging as soon as the defendant was arrested. This meant the defendant knew from his first day in court the strength of the evidence against him. The officer also provided additional material from all across the country after that first appearance which meant the defendant really had no option but to enter guilty pleas as promptly as he did."

WDC Bickerdyke also makes the following important point:

"This type of offence is greatly under reported due to the nature of the offence and the vulnerability of the victims that are targeted. We would, however, encourage anyone targeted in this way to contact police and would also remind homeowners to be on their guard against similar offenders and never to allow anyone they don't know into their home unless they have a legitimate reason to be there."

Rhodes admitted committing five fraud offences in Gloucestershire, along with three distraction burglaries. The offences took place in Quedgeley, Hempstead, Gloucester City Centre and Sandhurst Lane, Gloucester. Additionally three offences in Avon and Somerset, in Batheaston, Pill and Long Ashton; and seven in Devon and Cornwall, in Totnes, Ivybridge, Truro, Torquay, Newton Abbott, Penzance and Perranporth,

Other force areas he committed crimes in are: Cambridgeshire; Cheshire; Dorset; Derbyshire; Humberside; Lancashire; Leicestershire; Lincolnshire; Norfolk; North Yorkshire; Northumbria; Staffordshire; Suffolk; Thames Valley; West Mercia.


Notes For Editors

The offences were mainly committed over a two year period between 2007 and his arrest in 2009, and took place in 18 police force areas.

Rhodes had two methods; in the first he knocked on doors in a given area, claiming a link to the local vicar or other member of the church community, and asked householders to lend him money. He was given loans varying from £10 to £400 and on occasions would accompany the householder to a cashpoint while they withdrew money.

His other method involved knocking on doors, claiming to have broken down and asking to use a phone to call for help. He would then distract the householder before stealing cash, bank cards and other similar items.

For further information, contact Kate Nelmes, Media Manager, Gloucestershire Constabulary, 01452 754302 or CPS South West Press Office on 0117 930 1344 or 0117 930 1343.

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