Suffolk ‘master of deceit’ Alan Smith who featured on Crimewatch is jailed
- Credit: PA
A ruthless conman who “cynically” duped a string of victims out of more than £335,000 has been jailed for four years and four months.
Alan Smith, who was featured on BBC 1’s Crimewatch programme and was described by one of his victims as “a master of manipulation and deceit”, persuaded his victims to invest their money in what he described as “100% secure” investments, Ipswich Crown Court heard.
One of his victims, a 76-year-old woman, lost her life savings in the fraud and a couple were forced to abandon their dream of buying their first home together after losing £5,000 of their deposit. Sentencing 57-year-old Smith, Judge Rupert Overbury described the seven-year fraud as “sophisticated and well thought out” and said the overall figure he obtained from the 40 people he persuaded to invest money with him was £483,400.
He said he had read statements from victims of the fraud in which they set out the “devastation and physical and mental harm” they had suffered as a result of what Smith had done to them.
Judge Overbury said Smith had targeted vulnerable victims including women he met on dating websites. Another victim was his ex-partner’s 76-year-old mother who invested her life savings of £100,000 and only got £48,000 back.
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“There was a gross abuse of trust of people known to you including close family, friends and people you knew, including people who did work for you. Losing their savings was very traumatic and stressful causing sleepless nights and the effect on them was physical and mental,” said the judge.
He said some of Smith’s victims were initially suspicious about investing their money with Smith but he had won over them over.
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“You promised to underwrite any money invested and told them there was no risk in investing money when you must have known there were massive risks and it was highly unlikely they would get very little or no return.”
He said victims of the fraud had described Smith as “having no morals” and being “a master of manipulation and deceit.” Others said he was “a liar and a cheat, calculating and ruthless”.
“I have little hesitation agreeing with those sentiments,” said the judge. “You took time to build trust which you then deliberately and cynically abused,” he added.
Smith, of Boxted, near Sudbury, admitted 28 offences of fraud between January 2007 and January 2014. A proceeds of crime hearing will take place later this year.
Lynne Shirley, prosecuting, said the total number of victims of the fraud was 40 and the gross loss was over £483,000. She said only 15 victims had wanted to take the matter further and Smith had repaid some money leaving a net loss of £335,623.
Miss Shirley said Smith met seven of his victims through dating websites. When he spoke to one of them about investing money she said he had “committed the ultimate no no” by asking someone he had met on a website for money but despite this she had given him £10,000 followed by a further £12,000.
Another woman gave Smith £35,000 to invest and he also persuaded her to increase her mortgage by £55,000. Another woman invested £5,000 after Smith assured her she would get “high returns”.
“With all these ladies he portrayed himself as someone who was business savvy, trustworthy and someone they could rely on,” said Miss Shirley.
Greg Perrins, for Smith, said his client had brought the fraud to an end by handing himself into the police in January 2014. He said Smith had worked in financial services and had been an underwriter until the 1990s.
He had worked in telecommunications before setting up his own business. “He had high expectations and sought investors in it. He wasn’t seeking to deceive - he intended it to be successful,” said Mr Perrins.
However, the business was affected by the financial downturn and Smith had started offending. He said Smith, who has been in custody for 10 months, hadn’t had a lavish lifestyle and regretted the effect his offending had on his victims.