A CHEF has been locked up for six years after a “prolonged and despicable” blackmail campaign which bled his victim dry.
Dale Tomlinson, 31, was sentenced at York Crown Court yesterday after he was found guilty of blackmailing a man out of nearly £19,000 following a two day trial.
The dad-of-one, of Hollis Crescent, Strensall, met his victim on the dating website www.plentyoffish.com when he pretended to be a woman called Adele Cook, who had financial difficulties and who was looking for a relationship.
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He persuaded a man to send him money and when he refused to send more, the trial heard he told the victim he was a 14-year-old girl and threatened to tell police the victim had been grooming him.
It was these threats which pressured the man into sending nearly £19,000 over two-and-a-half months.
The jury heard Tomlinson was using the money to keep up the pretence to his partner that he still had a job.
Giving evidence, he denied setting up a profile on plentyoffish.com.
He alleged he had allowed a drinking friend whom he knew as ‘Alan’ to use his phone for hours at a time.
He claimed he believed the money arriving in his bank account was from online loan companies and that he had handed it to ‘Alan’ as soon as he had withdrawn it.
However, a jury of 12 people took less than two hours to return guilty verdicts on charges of blackmail and fraud.
Andrew Petterson, mitigating for Tomlinson, said: “He is of previous good character and has a good employment history of 16 years - up until January 2015 he was working as a chef.
“He has an 18-month-old child now and still has a relationship with the mother of that child.”
Mr Petterson added that Tomlinson, who had been remanded in custody while he was waiting for the trial to begin, had spent the time taking qualifications in English and Maths and was about to take up a position of responsibility in the prison kitchen.
Sentencing Tomlinson to six years in prison for blackmail, and two years for fraud to run concurrently, Judge Andrew Stubbs QC, said: “Your attack was prolonged and despicable.
“You bled him dry.
“Having seen him give evidence, it’s plain you have selected your victim carefully.
“I’ve had the advantage of seeing him give evidence and the impact it has had on this decent young man.
“The money went into your bank account to finance your false life and pretend to your wife you have a job.”