Property cheats had just £8 to their name

Scales of Justice
Scales of Justice

A Towcester couple who had just £8.70 in the bank have been jailed for a £3.5 million property fraud.

Richard Jerome, 65, and his wife Hazel, 62, of Watling Street, were jailed for six years and two years and three months respectively as they were branded ‘habitual confidence tricksters’ by a judge at Exeter Crown Court.

They had denied eight charges of fraud or deception but were found guilty by a jury following a three-week trial in the summer.

Richard and Hazel Jerome posed as a wealthy international businessman and his home maker wife as they made offers on expensive properties which they had no intention of buying.

Jerome claimed to be working with the charity Unesco and to have businesses in the Caribbean, the Caucuses, and Europe and homes in London, Barbados, the Cote D’Azur and the Dubrovnik Riviera.

He and his wife tried to befriend the buyers of expensive homes with the intention of repeating a swindle which had enabled them to live rent free in the lap of luxury in the past.

Their scheme was to make an offer, claim their money from abroad was delayed and ask to move in before completion. Phase two was to fob off the owners for months with excuses while they squatted rent free. They had pulled off exactly the same swindle in the past and Jerome resumed his scheming within days of being released from a 15-month sentence.

Jerome operated under a string of false names as he tried to buy a £2 million farmhouse at Badby, near Daventry.

He was also involved in a different fraud in which he claimed to be a financial adviser and conned a woman from Northamptonshire out of $100,000 in a bogus investment scheme.

He told her he had an annual income of £1 million and business interests all over the world.

In reality, neither Jerome nor his wife had any assets anywhere in the world. He was an ex-taxi driver who claimed to be an ex-policeman. She was a retired primary school teacher from Milton Keynes living on a modest pension.

Judge Erik Salomonsen told Jerome: “You are a confidence trickster, you are a menace. You are a fraudster who is motivated by profit without working for it.

“You pretended to be someone you were not.”

The jury at Exeter heard how they had both previously been convicted at Huntingdon Crown Court in 2009 for similar frauds.