Fraudster secretly stole thousands from girlfriend and left her suicidal
PUBLISHED: 15:23 28 January 2019 | UPDATED: 10:33 29 January 2019
A woman has hit out at her ex-boyfriend who secretly stole thousands and pushed her to the brink of suicide.
In December last year Mark Grace, of Corton Road in Lowestoft, was sentenced to six years in prison after being found guilty of offences of fraud and theft.
Between August 2016 and November 2018 he stole more than £40,000 from multiple victims he met through social media and dating apps.
Charlotte Sharpe, a 26-year-old hairdresser from King’s Lynn, was one of his first victims after meeting in 2014.
She said: “I met him on the Plenty of Fish dating app and we were together for about four months.
“He was an attractive man, seemed nice and was eager to meet. We went on a few dates and then started dating.”
Ms Sharpe describes their relationship as “normal” and said Grace provided strong support following her grandfather’s death and her own health battles.
However, all was not as it seemed.
She said: “I took out two phone contracts for him under the promise he would pay them back.
“He then asked for me to take out a loan but I said ‘no.’ He said he was starting a business – which is what he said to the other girls.”
After Ms Sharpe refused to take out a loan, Grace went quiet and dropped out of the picture.
“I tried to contact him through Facebook, I tried calling him, but he blocked me on everything”, said Ms Sharpe.
It was at this point the hairdresser began receiving letters demanding payments for loans she had no knowledge of.
Along with the two phone contracts, Grace had taken out a number of payday loans in Ms Sharpe’s name, costing more than £6,000 in total.
She said: “It was very scary as I then found out how much he had taken out in my name without me knowing and without my permission.
“It was very frightening – I tried to cope with covering my own bills.
“It was absolutely awful; I just crumbled, got very badly depressed and planned to kill myself.”
Ms Sharpe was subsequently put in touch with The Fermoy Unit – a nearby inpatient and crisis home treatment service.
She would visit the unit three days a week and slowly began rebuilding her life.
With help from the StepChange Debt Charity, she began paying back the money - £100 each month for four years.
Having previously been told the issue was a civil matter, Ms Sharpe was surprised to receive a call from the police on the day of her final payment.
They explained Grace had continued on his path of deceit and stolen thousands from more women in the following years.
Ms Sharpe said: “I just said ‘you could have called sooner’.”
Last year as she gave evidence in court she was left appalled by the scale of her ex-boyfriend’s lies.
Grace repeatedly convinced women to take out loans and credit for him – promising he would pay them back.
But once he received the money he would end the relationships and leave his victims to pay off the debts.
Ms Sharpe said: “I got off easier than some of the other girls – it was £20,000 for them.
“He was using emotional blackmail, tugging at the heart strings telling us he needed the money for solicitors to help see his son.
“I think he could have got longer; especially with the amount of money he stole from those girls.”
Following Grace’s conviction, the money stolen from Ms Sharpe will be returned to her.
However, she continues to struggle with the consequences of the crime as her attempts to take out a mortgage are repeatedly thwarted by her credit rating.
Ms Sharpe added: “I am still struggling because my credit rating is shot to pieces.
“I feel stupid; I was four months into a relationship I thought was genuine.”