Con man in £3.5m property swindle back behind bars

Richard Jerome
Richard Jerome

A notorious con man from Milton Keynes is back behind bars after being found guilty of a £3.5 million property swindle in which he tried to buy luxury homes without having a penny to his name.

Richard Jerome was branded a confidence trickster and a menace by a judge after a jury at Exeter Crown Court finally put an end to his career of deceit.

Jerome posed as a suave international financier working with Unesco even though he had only just been released from jail for an identical series of frauds in which he targeted rich professional single women.

He and his teacher wife Hazel went round Devon, Cornwall and the East Midlands pretending to be super rich ex-pats who had just come back from tax exile in the Caribbean and were searching for the perfect retirement home.

They made cash offers totalling more than £3.5 million for houses in Sidmouth, East Looe and Daventry, including the clifftop former home of writer RF Delderfield.

The couple’s aim was to repeat a swindle in which they persuaded the owners to let them move in while the money to close the deal was transferred from abroad. They would then become middle class squatters who refused to budge or pay rent.

In the end they failed because the owners and their estate agents became suspicious and realised they had both done it before.

Jerome used a string of aliases to go on upper-crust dating websites to target professional women, telling them he was a multi millionaire with business interests around the globe and an annual income of £1 million.

In reality he was a former minicab driver from Milton Keynes who had less than £200 to his name and only just been released from jail.

He served just a quarter of a 15 month sentence and within days of his release he created a false identity and started an internet seduction of a woman accountant who he fleeced for $100,000.

Jerome, 66, and ex wife Hazel, aged 62, formerly of Lonsdale, Wolverton, and now of Watling Street, Towcester, are both accused of making false representations that they had the funds to purchase Valhalla, in West Looe Hill, Looe, and Gazebo, in Peak Hill Road, Sidmouth, Ambleside House and Badby Lodge Farm, both near Daventry, Northamptonshire, between 2009 and 2011.

Jerome also faced three charges of obtaining more than £1,000 worth of surveys on the properties by deception and the $100,000 fraud against London based accountant Lalita Lalvani in 2011.

They were found guilty of all charges and Jerome was remanded in custody pending sentence by Judge Erik Salomonsen. His wife was bailed but warned she faces jail.

The judge said: ”He knows he is facing a long prison sentence.

And he told Jerome: “You know the score. You are a confidence trickster. You are a menace. You were a menace when you were convicted before and you continue to be a menace.”

The couple are expected to be sentenced in three weeks.