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Couple who conned estate agents found guilty of frauds

Couple who conned estate agents found guilty of frauds

A couple who conned agents and house sellers into thinking they were super-wealthy purchasers are awaiting sentencing.

During a three-year spree, Richard Jerome and his ex-teacher wife Hazel went round Devon, Cornwall and Northamptonshire pretending to be rich ex-pats who were just back from tax exile in the Caribbean and searching for a home to retire to.

In fact, Jerome was a former mini-cab driver from Milton Keynes who had less than £200 to his name and had already done time for fraud. In 2009, he and his wife were given jail sentences at Huntingdon Crown Court for convictions relating to two properties.

In their latest frauds, the couple would make cash offers – in total, more than £3.5m for four houses in Sidmouth, Looe and Daventry – then claim delays for a variety of reasons and ask to rent the property prior to purchase. They then ‘squatted’ in the properties without paying rent.

Among those giving evidence at the trial at Exeter Crown Court was agent Edward Talland of Jackson Stops & Staff. The couple, using the name ‘Ausson’ put in an offer to buy a £750,000 property in Sidmouth in 2010. By January 2011, there was no sign of funds coming through.

Talland realised who the couple were when a surveyor emailed him a cutting about the earlier case which contained a photograph.

The couple were found guilty of all charges. Jerome was remanded in jail and his wife released on bail, but warned she can expect a custodial sentence. ??Judge Erik Salomonsen said: “He knows he is facing a long prison sentence.”

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 later this month.