A CONFIDENCE trickster who swindled a grandmother out of her life savings has been sentenced to 40 months in jail.
Gerald Bown, 57, was sentenced in his absence at Dorchester Crown Court for a charge of obtaining property by deception dating back to 2000 after repeatedly failing to appear for hearings.
A warrant had already been issued for Bown’s arrest and police will now attempt to track him down and bring him to prison to serve the sentence.
His victim Winifred Brinton has died following the scam and family members described how Bown ‘took her dignity, her self-respect and her pride’.
Gary Venturi, prosecuting, said the total amount involved in the offences was £21,770.
He said Bown first met his victim when he offered to carry out some maintenance work for Mrs Brinton, who was in her 90s, at her home in Nottington .
Mr Venturi said as he befriended her and began to gain her trust Bown would tell ‘stories of hardship’ and ask to borrow money for a variety of reasons, with the promise he would pay her back.
He said: “Mr Bown got to the point whereby he could effectively with impunity come to Mrs Brinton with a need for cash and she would offer the cash he required.”
Mr Venturi said it got to the stage where Bown would take Mrs Brinton’s cash card and go to the cash point, at first with her and later on his own. He said when she first met Bown, Mrs Brinton had around £30,000 in life savings as well as around £2,000 in current accounts.
Not only did she go through all of that in the period between February 2000 and May 2003, he also persuaded her to take out a loan of £1,400 and then proceeded to borrow more money from her.
She even started taking steps to sell her house and downsize after being persuaded to do so by Bown but police were alerted as she went to view a flat.
The court was told Bown was first arrested back in February 2003 but moved address after he was bailed by police.
After being tracked down in 2010 he then proceeded to miss a series of court appearances, on several occasions complaining of chest pains resulting in him being taken to hospital. He then discharged himself from hospital the same day.
In mitigation Rufus Taylor emphasised his client’s guilty plea and ill health and said Bown, of Bridlebank Way, Weymouth, also suffering from sight problems.
He told Judge Roger Jarvis: “Your honour has to sentence him for a very mean and very significant offence of dishonesty.
“Having said that, there is a plea, he is ill and he hasn’t been before the courts for an offence of dishonesty for some 22 years and any offence at all for 17.”
He took grandma’s dignity and pride
IN a statement read at the sentence hearing, Mrs Brinton’s family described the devastating effect Bown’s crimes had upon his elderly victim.
A statement by her daughter-in-law Valerie Brinton and grandson James Brinton said: “Bown didn’t just take her money, he took her dignity, her self-respect and her pride.
“He ruined any hope of her being happy in her final years of her life and left her waiting to die.”
After the sentencing James Brinton said that while he was pleased Bown had finally received a prison sentence to reflect his crimes, nothing could make up for the impact on his late grandmother, who died in a care home in February.
He said: “I think I can speak on behalf of the family to say it’s a big relief that he has been brought to justice, the crimes he committed against gran were terrible.
“Whilst it is reassuring that he has been brought to justice, it not really a celebration because at the end of the day you cannot undo the damage he has done to my grandmother.
“He left her financially ruined and he took away her happiness for the last few years of her life.”
Mr Brinton, 33, also praised the police and Crown Prosecution Service for their work on the case and urged anyone who had been victim of a similar crime to come forward.
He said: “I would like to send my thanks to the police and the CPS, they have both been really good.
“I want to specifically thank Detective Sergeant Steve Broadhurst.”