Bogus film producer jailed for deception
WITH a fleet of expensive cars at his disposal, Richard Maskery looked every inch the millionaire film producer he claimed to be.Turning up at meetings in a Porsche, Ferrari or Range Rover and claiming to have just flown in from business meetings in Europe, he exuded an air of charm and credibility.
WITH a fleet of expensive cars at his disposal, Richard Maskery looked every inch the millionaire film producer he claimed to be.
Turning up at meetings in a Porsche, Ferrari or Range Rover and claiming to have just flown in from business meetings in Europe, he exuded an air of charm and credibility.
However, behind this veneer of Hollywood extravagance was a calculating fraudster who lived in a “Walter Mitty-like fantasy world” and used his successful image to carry out a scam which netted him thousands of pounds.
Today 37-year-old Maskery, of Westhorpe Road, Finningham, is starting an 18-month jail term after admitting six offences of dishonesty, including theft, three of obtaining money transfers by deception and two of evading a liability by deception.
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Sentencing him at Ipswich Crown Court, deputy judge Gareth Davies said that Maskery had left one Suffolk couple out of pocket after stealing a tractor from them and stringing them along one with promises to buy their £525,000 farmhouse.
He had also tricked a local builder out of more than £30,000 by conning him into putting money into a non-existent investment scheme and another local builder was left £35,000 out of pocket after renovating a stable block to house Maskery's non-existent fleet of expensive cars.
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“You entered into a series of arrangements using your charm and credibility to the detriment of a number of people,” said the judge.
He said Maskery had “cruelly” issued cheques to creditors without regard to the effect on them when they found out they were worthless.
Matthew Gowen, prosecuting, said: “He lived in a fantasy world in which he gave himself the persona of a film producer and film financier.”
He said that Maskery turned up for meetings in a Ferrari, a Porsche and a Range Rover but instead of owning them as he claimed, they had all been rented.
“A vast number of people were completely taken in by him. Behind the veneer of Hollywood extravagance that he portrayed he was a calculating fraudster who preyed on people who thought they knew him and defrauded them out of cash and services and put the cash towards his extravagant lifestyle,” said Mr Gowen.
In February 2004, Simon Betney and his wife Joanne had put their farmhouse at Brampton on the market and emigrated to New Zealand.
They arranged for their friend Matthew Jones to live at the property while a buyer was found and in June 2004 Maskery, whose parents lived locally, visited the farm and made an offer of £525,000 which was accepted.
Maskery persuaded Mr Jones, who was a builder, to live at the farm and carry out building work he had planned for the premises.
“Believing this, Mr Jones gave up work he had on his books. He was completely taken in by this defendant,” said Mr Gowen.
“He found Maskery to be very plausible and believed him to be a wealthy and successful businessman with a fleet of expensive cars.”
During discussions about work on the farm Maskery persuaded Mr Jones to invest £32,000 in a 12-week fast track scheme which he claimed would give him a guaranteed return of £128,000.
“There was no scheme or investment and Maskery put the money to his own personal use to continue the lifestyle he had developed for himself,” said Mr Gowen.
Mr Gowen said the defendant had added credibility to his dealings by using documents bearing the name “Saracen Entertainment” and listing him as company director.
Meanwhile contracts were drawn up for the sale of the farm to Maskery but these were never exchanged.
“He gave reasons for the delay such as difficulties with finance and the transfer of funds but in reality he never intended to buy the farm in the first place and had no means to buy it,” said Mr Gowen.
At one stage Maskery told Mr Betney that he had bone cancer but the only time he had been in hospital was when he fell off a step-ladder and broke his arm.
Despite not owning the farm Maskery had arranged for Mark Calver from Calco Steel to carry out a £54,000 renovation project to convert a stable block into a garage for his fleet of cars.
After carrying out £35,000 work Mr Calver tried to get payment from Maskery but was given a cheque which bounced. He subsequently discovered that Maskery didn't even own the farm.
Mr and Mrs Betney's eventually found a new buyer for their farm, a year after they originally set out to sell it, and sold it for £35,000 less than the original price because of changes Maskery had made.
After his arrest Maskery was found to have self-inflicted injuries and blood-stained razor blades were found by police. In interviews he denied any wrongdoing and continued to maintain the persona of a film producer.
Miles Bennett, for Maskery, said his client had no previous convictions and was a “Walter Mitty” who needed help rather than a calculated fraudster.
He said that Maskery's “mania” was caused by him not being as successful as he or those around him thought he should be.