York man, 86, conned out of £80,000

AN 86-year-old dementia sufferer in York was conned out of nearly £80,000 in a long-running fraud by two men, a court has heard.

Ryan Rowe and Steven Wood repeatedly visited the man in Haxby and defrauded him out of his money, then roped in a York relative when the banks became suspicious of their own dealings, Teesside Crown Court was told yesterday.

Mary Wilson, 29, admitted trying to launder £2,400 and was given a four-month sentence, suspended for two years. Rowe, 21, of Spring Lane in Bickerton near Wetherby and Wood, 30, who is already in jail for another offence, will be sentenced on Thursday.

Richard Bennett, prosecuting for North Yorkshire Trading Standards, said Rowe and Wood had “repeatedly targeted elderly victims and defrauded them of substantial funds”.

They defrauded money from the Haxby man over a number of occasions, but two £17,000 cheques were then stopped by the bank.

Mr Bennett said: “As they put cheques in, the bank realised what was going on and stopped the cheques.”

Rowe and Wood then turned to other members of the family to launder the money, including single mum-of-three Mary Wilson, of Cromer Street in Clifton.

She tried to put the £2,400 cheque into her account in March 2011, but Mr Bennett said: “That cheque too was stopped by the bank. So it was an attempt. The prosecution case was she must have at least been suspicious.”

Wilson had been arrested on suspicion of money laundering in Leeds, the court heard, and she was on bail for this when Wood asked her to pay the cheque into her account.

She was later acquitted by the jury in the West Yorkshire case, but her partner was sentenced to three-and-a-half years for fraud.

Wilson yesterday admitted one offence of attempting to convert criminal property yesterday.

Angus MacDonald, defending, accepted the offence crossed the custody threshold, but stressed that his client had no knowledge of how the money was raised.

Wilson, of previous good character, had got away from the other people involved in the offences by moving to York.

“This defendant in particular has a certain vulnerability which although it is a poor excuse for her actions provides an insight how she got involved,” he added.

“This has been a warning shot across the bows. She would deny any knowledge of what was going on in respect of the vulnerable victims.”

Judge Peter Armstrong told Wilson: “It’s serious enough to warrant custody if you end up cashing cheques obtained from elderly people. You might not have known the source of it, but you took the risk.”

He suspended the sentence for two years, adding: “I’m sure you won’t be foolish enough to get involved again” to which Wilson replied: “No.”

Rowe and Wood have pleaded guilty and will be sentenced on Thursday for fraud and money laundering offences.

Abigail Russell, 23, of Rockingham Street, York, who had been due to stand trial with Wilson, was cleared of all charges after the Crown offered no evidence yesterday.

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