Identity thief jailed - Bedfordshire

06/07/2012

A fraudster who cloned his landlord's identity and then used it to sell his £300,000 house from under his nose has been jailed for three years.

The scam was attempted on two other rented properties, which would have netted Francis Vaughan half a million pounds, a court heard on Friday, 06 July 2012.

The deceptions were made possible by the fraudsters checking the Land Registry web site to find rented properties on which no mortgage was held.

They would then rent the property, paying six months rent in advance, which gave them time to create the false identity of the landlord, get a driving licence in the false name and gather utility bills to support mortgage applications and satisfy solicitors that the transaction was lawful and genuine.

The con was successful in relation to a house in Timber Lane, WOBURN, Beds, Luton Crown Court was told on Friday.

Vaughan, a former estate agent, moved in in December 2009, claiming to be a Botox surgeon. He rented £9,000 worth of furniture to fit it out.

By January he informed the DVLA that he had changed his name by deed poll to Ross Scott Beatty - the name of his landlord who owned the property.

He opened on line accounts with Halifax using the false particulars and by June 2010 he had 'sold' the house to a company in Durham that buys properties cheaply, for cash for £176,000. They in turn sold it for £300,000 to a completely innocent purchaser, said Beverley Cripps for the Crown Prosecution Service.

Within two weeks Vaughan had converted the cash to five bars of gold bullion.

The fraud came to light in September 2010 when the original owner was checking on the property as he had been unable to contact his tenant and found a gardener working there. He said he was working for the new owner, and police were informed.

Miss Cripps said both men were caused considerable distress by the situation, which was eventually resolved by the Land Registry who reinstated the property to the original owner and reimbursed the purchaser from public funds.

But, she said, in the meantime Vaughan had moved onto a property in Derling Drive, RAUNDS, Northants. He moved in as a tenant in August 2010 and took on the identity of the owner, Nigel Hodgson-Jones, and sold it for £175,000 in November. But the proceeds from the sale had not reached Vaughan before police moved in.

In October, Vaughan had moved into a property in Chesterfield Mews, Sackville Street, NEWMARKET, worth at least £200,000, but the fraud was in its very early stages when police discovered what was going on.

Vaughan, 32, a former semi professional footballer and England Under-18 athlete from Ryton Close, BRICKHILL, Beds, pleaded guilty to three charges of fraud by false representation, one of converting criminal money into gold bullion, and one of stealing furniture worth £9,000. He was jailed for three years.

With him in the dock was 32-year-old Carl Aldridge of The Green, MARSTON MORETAINE, Beds who pleaded guilty to fraud, and three charges of converting criminal property. He was jailed for 10 months.

His criminality involved his name being used with fake details to obtain the mortgage for Derling Drive and converting £26,000 he received from the deal.

Judge Stuart Bridge told Vaughan: "This was a sophisticated and highly professional identity fraud.

"The effect on the landlord and purchaser of the property at Timber Lane was quite devastating and they were put to considerable expense and inconvenience to solve the dilemma that you had created for them.

"The scheme stood to gain something in excess of £500,000 though your actual gain was £176,000. I accept you were by no means the mastermind, but the front man, or more accurately the fall guy, and that pressure was placed on you."

He told Aldridge: "Someone gave you the opportunity to obtain a house which was clearly beyond your financial means. A custodial sentence is inevitable."

Richard Storey for Vaughan said: "He became involved through pressure from other people. He did not set up the deals or conduct the business, but it was his face that people saw."

Steven Garrett, for Aldridge said: "He was spoken to by a man in a pub, and his expectation was that he would end up with the house making his best efforts to pay the mortgage. He was taken advantage of by much more sophisticated criminals."

Proceedings are on going to recover proceeds from the crimes.

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