Man cons OAP out of £25k - then lives in the woods to avoid police
A CONMAN who hid out in woodland for a year-and-a-half after swindling an elderly charity volunteer out of £25,000 pounds has been jailed.
In a move more akin to a plotline from Midsomer Murders, Mark McGuire opted to camp in the countryside for 16 months rather than face justice.
Yet the fraudster was caught when the need to keep clean became too much and police grabbed him as he went to his sister’s home to take a shower.
McGuire, of Binswood Avenue, Leamington, was sentenced to 20 months in jail.
The 46-year-old befriended 77-year-old Salvation Army worker Barbara Wellman while she helped him and other visitors at one of the organisation’s drop in centres. He then abused her Christian goodwill for a whole year.
She initially gave him money for a train ticket, thinking he needed to visit his sick mother.
Over the next year, McGuire managed to con his generous victim out of a total of £25,000 pounds, with her giving him monthly cheques for £1,000 pounds, thinking it would be a loan he would use to pay his rent.
After McGuire’s scam was detected he was arrested and charged before being released on bail.
He then vanished and fled to woodland where he camped for a year-and-a-half.
Roger Coventry, prosecuting, told Oxford Crown Court that retired headteacher Miss Wellman had met McGuire at the Salvation Army centre close to her home in Banbury.
McGuire then started to visit her home and vulnerable Miss Wellman, who was starting to lose her memory and struggling to look after her affairs, thought she had given him her address, though she “could not remember doing so”.
He then told her that he had found somewhere to live in Oxford and asked her for £1,000 pounds to pay his rent.
“He said he was going to repay it,” said Mr Coventry.
“That was the pattern that went on for most of 2008.
“Once a cheque for £4,000 pounds was given to him and there were other cheques.
“Mr McGuire was living rent free with a friend, Simon Copeland.”
McGuire was arrested in August 2009 and appeared before Banbury magistrates’ court where he was released on bail.
However, he failed to attend his next hearing and spent the next 18 months camping out in the woods. After he was caught, he was jailed for eight weeks at Banbury Magistrates’ Court last month for absconding from bail. The fraudster was brought from prison to the Crown Court last Friday to be dealt with for the more serious offence.
Andrea Ferguson, defending, said that McGuire had been a chronic alcoholic at the time he carried out the fraud, to which he pleaded guilty. She said that he had missed his 2009 hearing because of a panic attack, and then fled to the woods.
“During that period of time he had pangs of conscience on a number of occasions but was unable to face the music.
“It’s a matter of what he was doing during that period of time, he was not spending the money and living a life of luxury, he was camping and said he did so looking continuously over his shoulder, knowing this was going to come back to haunt him.”
Judge Julian Hall said: “It is difficult to imagine a worse breach of trust than to steal money from an elderly person working for a charity, deceiving them, conning them out of money when they, out of a sense of Christian goodwill, were working to help people like you who had a rough deal. The breach of trust was at a very high level, the money was taken over a period of a year and you kept on doing it.”
Judge Hall sentenced McGuire, of Binswood Avenue, Leamington Spa, to 20 months behind bars.
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Thursday 23 May 2013
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