Conman's 'fantastical' claims swindled £250,000 from vulnerable victims
- Credit: Suffolk Police
A conman swindled vulnerable victims out of more than £250,000 after making “fantastical” claims and inventing a string of false identities.
Christopher Webster was jailed for more than seven years at Ipswich Crown Court on Friday, July 29, where Recorder Gabrielle Posner described the frauds as “elaborate” and said he had targeted elderly and vulnerable people.
The court heard the 43-year-old created more than 17 fake identities, opened bank accounts and created phantom law firms, with his actions leaving one of his victims around £1 million out of pocket.
“You took them for every penny you could get,” said the judge.
“The consequences of what you did are ongoing and are a living nightmare for the victims at a time of their lives when they should be able to relax and enjoy themselves.”
Webster, of Marsh Lane, Lowestoft, admitted three offences of fraud over a four year period and was jailed for seven years and two months.
Prosecutor John Farmer said Webster's victims showed "varying degrees of cooperation" with the investigation, highlighting their "embarrassment" at the incident.
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He said: “This case concerns the extraction by fraud of large sums of money by the making of fantastical claims pursued in great detail by the defendant, the use of 17-plus identities created for himself, bank accounts opened, phantom law firms and legal actions.
“This was a complex theatre of activity by the defendant which led to a complex lengthy investigation with varying degrees of cooperation from some of the people involved.
"Almost certainly a factor was embarrassment at being defrauded in this way,” he said.
One of the biggest frauds involving £231,000 concerned the friend of a retired surveyor from Lakenheath.
The victim was told that a neighbour of his friend in Lakenheath had been in prison and had obtained judgment against the Chief Constable of Suffolk for 7 billion US dollars in an American court for wrongful conviction.
“Webster was soon on the scene selling him fantastical propositions of huge amounts of money locked in legal proceedings in the US,” said Mr Farmer.
“Over time he was introduced to a whole cast of characters invented by the defendant with their own back story.
"They all allegedly had professional roles to play in this money recovery.
“There were masses of emails. Meetings were arranged but for a range of reasons often at the last minute cancelled and he never met anyone.
“The simple explanation was that there was nobody other than the defendant.
"They were his inventions attributing them special secure emails making them untraceable.
“It was an enormous web created by the defendant who must have required real skill and agility to keep up with who was who and what they were doing,” said Mr Farmer.
He said that between March 2017 and December 2020 the victim of the fraud made 237 payments amounting to £231,492 to Webster.
The victim had also incurred bridging loan costs of £106,000 and was forced to sell two houses at massive losses estimated at £1 million.
Over time, he had more than 8,000 email exchanges with Webster and the various “characters” he had created.
Another victim of the same fraud paid Webster more than £4,000 in response to requests to pay legal fees in pursuit of the “phantom” claim in the US courts.
The last of the frauds related to Webster falsely claiming that he would help the victim of a Bitcoin fraud to secure damages.
The victim paid Webster £40,000 between January to May 2020 in pursuit of the claim and Webster had used a fictitious lawyer to falsely tell him he’d been awarded £120,000, said Mr Farmer.
Megan Rogers for Webster said he recognised the impact his crimes had had on his victims and was “deeply remorseful”.