Bury St Edmunds: Fraudster conned parishioners by claiming he had terminal cancer

Sean Malarkey

Sean Malarkey - Credit: Archant

A FRAUDSTER duped parishioners of a Suffolk church out of nearly £4,000 by claiming he had terminal cancer and was being threatened by drug dealers, a court heard.

Sean Malarkey, of St James Lane, Bury St Edmunds, was jailed for 29 months by Ipswich Crown Court after his sham was uncovered when a couple called police because they believed he had been kidnapped.

Despite all the support, and money Richard and Gipsy Stephens gave Malarkey over two-and-a-half years he sent text messages branding them Judases after police caught up with him.

Prosecutor Matthew Gowen said the former Big Issue seller met Mr and Mrs Stephens in 2010 through their work with Vineyard Church in Bury St Edmunds.

Malarkey, who admitted fraud, lied to the couple to elicit sympathy from them and gain their trust.

The 44-year-old also falsely claimed to have lung and liver cancer.

The couple even gave him a room for Christmas after being completely taken in by him, the court heard.

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Malarkey started borrowing money off them – including a sum for what he said would be a private operation - claiming it would be repaid by through a trust fund worth in excess of £147,000, which he stood to inherit.

Over time other parishioners also provided support for Malarkey, who has drug issues.

At one stage he told them his cancer was in remission, only to tell them a few months later that it had returned.

Malarkey’s scam ended when he claimed to have been kidnapped but did not want the Stephens reporting it.

However, they were so worried they contacted the police.

During the inquiry CCTV was discovered showing Malarkey inside a bookmaker’s.

The court heard following Malarkey’s he sent a series of abusive text messages, including calling the Stephens Judases as he felt they betrayed him.

Sentencing Malarkey, Recorder Karim Khalil QC said: “In 2010 you met a Mr and Mrs Stephens, a thoroughly decent couple well respected in their community and the sort of people who wish to do good and the right thing by those around them.

“Repeatedly you took advantage of their willingness to assist, and their trust in you. They provided comfort to you and eventually provided financial support.

“They didn’t just provide assistance for you themselves. They garnered support for you in the community and in the church community.

“You simply saw them as cash cows.”

Malarkey, who had 28 previous convictions for 45 offences, was given a total of 29 months for fraud and breaching a conditional discharge he received for shoplifiting.