Thursday, 18 March 2010
Estate agent jailed over my Mum's life savings
This is Cardiff estate agent Sean White, as he would like his friends to see him, on a popular social networking site.
Facebook may be the only way his friends can see him in the near future, as he is now beginning a short term in what he would doubtless describe as a deceptively spacious prison cell.
White, of 18, Glenroy Street, Roath, Cardiff, is paying the penalty for laundering £115,000 from an old lady's life savings. His victim was Anne Cornock, a 76-year-old widow from the Vale of Glamorgan.
My mother did not live to see Sean White face justice. She died last November from cancer, her last months destroyed by the way Sean White and his mates conned her out of her life savings.
In all, she lost £272,300 in a scam linked to a new drive on her modest bungalow in Sully, near Penarth. Unknown to her family, who discovered the scam by accident while she was in hospital, she was conned and threatened for more than a year, too ashamed and frightened to call the police or tell anyone.
Today, at Cardiff Crown Court, Sean White was sentenced to two years - a year in jail, a year on licence -after pleading guilty to two counts of money laundering £115,000.
Judge Paul Thomas QC told White: "You were a vital component in this wicked enterprise. Without thoroughly dishonourable people like you, these men who exploited Mrs Cornock could not have profited so easily."
White committed the crimes while proprietor of his own business - Masons Homes (Rumney) Ltd. At the time of his arrest - and for three months afterwards - White was sales manager of Seraph Estates in Cardiff. The judge told him he would "never again be employed in a position of trust - and deservedly so".
White's defence was that he did not know where the money that ended up in his bank account came from, even though my mother's name clearly showed on online bank statements. White swiftly emptied the account; the money is long gone.
He told the police that he only knew those he passed the money to by nicknames. Would you lend your bank account details to someone you hardly knew? Me neither.
If you were a gang intent on fleecing an old lady for her life savings would you entrust £115,000 of your ill-gotten gains to someone you barely knew? I don't think so.
Besides the £115,000 sent by electronic transfer, my mother handed over a total of more than £150,000 in cash in payments to these thugs who regularly called at her home. The cash withdrawals from branches of NatWest in Penarth and Barry - £18,000 here, £7,000 there, and so on over a period of months, stopped only when she was admitted to hospital last September. She never came home.
My mother was a sensible, cautious woman who was prudent before Gordon Brown learned to spell the word.
She was a private person and was deeply ashamed of being conned in this way. She would not have appreciated this blog post or wanted others to know what she went through. It is very painful for me to have to re-live the events of last year. But if my Mum could fall for it, then so could yours.
Sean White, who has shown zero remorse, is behind bars but the villains who used his bank account are still out there, free to target other vulnerable old people.
Today, at Cardiff Crown Court, I listened as White's barrister told Cardiff Crown Court how he'd played only a minor part in what the lawyer admitted was the systematic swindling of an old lady.
We heard about White's relationship problems, his child, his business failure, his own housing difficulties. There was just one word missing from the plea of mitigation.