'Mean and ruthless' conman jailed over £350,000 scam
PUBLISHED: 14:23 01 April 2019 | UPDATED: 10:31 02 April 2019
A 44-year-old Essex conman who set himself up as an antique dealer and scammed customers out of an estimated £350,000 worth of family heirlooms has been jailed for five-and-a-half years.
Daniel Clelland, of The Old Stables, Little Hallingbury, near Bishop’s Stortford – formerly of Mill Lane, Bradfield, Manningtree – opened an antique shop called the Dolls House in Harwich, and then another called Scrooge in Manningtree.
He befriended clients and earned the trust of his victims and then cheated them, Chelmsford Crown Court heard.
A conservative estimate of precious heirlooms and collections he defrauded them of was put at £350,000 – though the value could be as much as half a million pounds, the court was told.
Clelland, who had changed his pleas to guilty on the day of his trial, was charged with six offences of fraud by false representation and one of theft between April 2015 and January 2016.
Jailing him today, Judge David Turner QC said Clelland had conned his victims in a “mean and ruthless way”.
He had held himself out as being a trustworthy professional dealer and trader in antiques and second hand goods, but had groomed his customers into parting with their property and then strung them along when they neither got money from any sales or their items back.
“You have a dishonest, deceptive, calculating streak in your personality,” the judge told him.
He had caused significant impact on his victims, who had spoken of their anxiety, stress and financial worries.
One married couple had both died and not seen justice, one of them just two weeks ago, the court heard.
Among the items now lost were three First World War medals; a stamp collection put together over 50 years, a coin collection with up to 1,000 coins; a silver Essex and Suffolk Hunt stirrup cup; and a Penny Black stamp.
His victims were Eileen and Alan Tyrer who are in their 80s; Patricia and Kenneth Silburn, now both deceased and related to the Tyrers; Thomas Cooper, a retired antique dealer; stamp and sword collector Stephen Home; and Richard Browning-Smith, who has now lost his uncle Geoffrey Wear’s war medals and his father’s coin collection.
The theft count related to £32,000 Mr Browning-Smith handed over to Clelland to prepare a piece of land he owns in Dedham for renting out in a supposed joint venture between them.
The court heard that Clelland simply kept the money.
Prosecutor Anwar Nashashibi said: “Clelland cheated five customers of antiques, heirlooms, precious collections and money.
“He is a persuasive fraudster.
“He appeared to be a knowledgeable, substantive, trustworthy businessman although he was nothing of the sort.
“He set up temporary shops, first in Harwich then in Manningtree.”
He added that the defendant won their trust and then exploited them to defraud them.
When they repeatedly asked for their money from supposed sales or their goods back he strung them along, cancelling appointments numerous times. He became threatening.
Clelland was interviewed three times by police, in December 2015 and January and February 2016.
He claimed the complaints were fabricated and suggested the complainants had mental health issues, had been affected by drugs and that one was “unhinged”.
However, as he passed sentence Judge Turner said Clelland said he had lied and prevaricated.
Donal Lawler, for Clelland, said the defendant had eventually admitted guilt so a trial was not needed.
On the question of where the missing items now were and whether they were “in a cupboard somewhere”, the barrister said Clelland had stated “there was nothing that he could give back”.
He accepted that he had sold the stamp collection “for a mere fraction of what they were worth”.
The court heard Clelland was suffering from a neurological disorder which affected his nervous system.
He could not walk properly – he appeared in the dock on crutches – and his speech and eyesight were impaired.
The judge also ordered a further hearing with view to assessing and confiscating Clelland’s assets in the hope of compensating his victims.