Carpet fitter jailed after £85,000 scam
A carpet fitter has been jailed for more than three years after conning his customers out of almost £85,000.
With the promise of large returns, Martin Horn persuaded his victims, some in their 80s and 90s, to invest savings into his business but instead spent the money on funding his gambling addiction.
The 56-year-old of Forest Hall, North Tyneside paid small amounts back to some of his victims by using cash he’d received from others during the three-year scam.
He even stole from an elderly, disabled woman be pretended to care for when she was sick by offering to buy her shopping but instead took almost £2,500 from her bank account.
Horn was jailed for 39 months after pleading guilty to 10 counts of fraud and 10 of theft at Newcastle Crown Court on 7 September.
James Adkin, prosecuting, said the first seven fraud charges related to seven victims who Horn conned between 2010 and 2013.
‘There were a number of victims who were subject to the fraudulent activities of this defendant. It took a similar format to a Ponzi-style scheme. The defendant invited individuals, often elderly, to invest in his business. The money was actually used by the defendant probably for gambling purposes. He would use money from some victims to pay-off others to keep the system running’ he said.
The court heard Horn’s first victim was an 83-year-old woman who he met after befriending her husband at a bookmakers. He persuaded her to invest £10,150 into his carpet and flooring business but instead spent the money.
Horn befriended his second victim while renovating his home. On that occasion, he took £14,000 with the promise of large returns.
Next, he targeted a property rental businessman, who he again befriended and persuaded to invest about £4,800 so he could buy materials for his company.
The fourth victim has since died. ‘This victim is now deceased and was particularly vulnerable. He was 80 when he met this defendant. He encountered the defendant in 2011 when he fitted flooring in his home,’ said Adkin.
The court heard the man was persuaded to invest £27,630 into Horn’s business through a number of cheques.
Horn’s next three victims were a retired man he befriended in a betting shop, a grandmother he fitted carpets for and a mortgage advisor he also met at bookmakers.
Adkin told the court Horn was arrested after some of his victims reported him but he went on to commit further offences while on bail.
‘The next victim met the defendant at a betting shop. He was retired and became friends with the defendant in March 2014. They sometimes socialised and, at first, the defendant borrowed small amounts of cash. However, in due course, the defendant said he had a business of carpet and flooring fitting. He said he had three to four people working for him and had continued problems with late payments from customers.’
On a number of occasions Horn persuaded him to lend him cash to pay for materials.
Again, Horn was arrested and interviewed but further released on bail.
He then turned his attentions to a 92-year-old woman he’d befriended while fitting her carpets three years previously.
‘In May 2015, the women was poorly. The defendant visited her on several occasions and looked after her. She was unable to go shopping and the defendant volunteered to shop for her. He persuaded her to give him her bank card and pin number,’ Adkins told the court.
As well as buying the woman’s groceries, Horn took £2,450 from her account, which she later noticed when she checked her bank statements.
Sentencing Horn, who has previous convictions from 1994 for similar offences, recorder Mark McKone said: ‘Not only do these people lose out financially and lose money they can’t afford to, it has a real impact on how they feel about their fellow citizens when they are duped in this way.’
Jamie Adams, mitigating, said Horn had been a hard-working carpet fitter for 30 years but had been consumed by his gambling addiction.
‘Gambling is an acute illness because it takes over the person and drives them in a way that takes them, as it has in this case into very wrongful areas of behaviour. It makes them deceitful and dishonest and they lose their sense of what is right. It drives their very being.’
He added Horn has now sought help for his addiction.