Fraudster funded luxury lifestyle with bad cheques

A FRAUDSTER who used forged documents to open bank accounts before going on a £15,000 spending spree across the Harrogate district has been jailed for eight months.

John Edward Chappell, 50, of The Old Market in Yarm, near Stockton-on-Tees, appeared before York Crown Court for sentencing on Tuesday after pleading guilty at an earlier hearing to nine offences relating to using cheques for obtaining goods and services valued at £5,582 in towns and cities including Harrogate, Ripon, Boroughbridge and Masham between July and November 2009.

He also asked the court to take into account a further 27 similar offences committed between May and November of the same year for goods and services worth £9,707.

The court heard between April and July 2009, Chappell had opened accounts with three high street banks using forged council tax bills he presented for application checks.

“The defendant used a number of cheques from these accounts to obtain goods and services,” said Crown prosecutor David Orbaum.

“He knew there were no funds in the accounts to clear the relevant purchases so his actions were dishonest from the beginning.”

Among the dishonoured amounts were £2,901 for rented accommodation in Harrogate, a booking for flights to Tenerife plus accommodation which left a Ripon travel agent £713 out of pocket, £415 for a night’s stay and full bed and breakfast at Swinton Park luxury castle hotel near Masham, and a £70 fee to the Best Western Crown Hotel in Boroughbridge.

Chappell was arrested by police at Manchester Airport in November 2009 when he tried to use air tickets worth £606 he got after using two dishonoured cheques at a York travel agent.

While accepting the fraud had been professionally planned, in mitigation Chappell’s defence barrister Graeme Gaston said: “These offences were always in his name so it was always referable back to him and the police didn’t have to look hard to trace him.”

The court heard Chappell had five previous convictions between 2001-10 for a total of 20 offences including forgery and obtaining services by deception.

Sentencing Chappell to eight months’ imprisonment, Judge Roger Ibbotson said: “The aggravating factors are that the offences were committed over a protracted period and were persistent, they were obviously premeditated because you opened up three accounts, and the money which you spent was not spent on necessities but, among other things, luxury hotels.

“A bounced cheque can be very damaging for a small business and it cannot be underestimated and, looking at the pre-sentence reports, you still have little conception of the effect you had on the honest businesses that have been the victims of your frauds.

“There is a long history of this type of offence and it would appear you have learned nothing from the community orders you have received in the past. The time has come for you to experience custody.”

Judge Ibbotson also scheduled a proceeds of crime hearing to take place on December 13.