Accountant jailed for exploiting vulnerable Harrogate man out of his home and more than £30,000 in savings

An accountant from Leeds has been jailed for conning a vulnerable man out of his Harrogate home and out of more than £30,000 in savings.

By Court Reporter
Tuesday, 10th May 2022, 5:05 pm
Updated Tuesday, 10th May 2022, 5:10 pm

Sukhdev Singh, 73, of Chelwood Drive, Moor Allerton in Leeds, spent the money within a fortnight on expensive jewellery, gambling, bank transfers to accounts held by him in India, private school tuition fees and other domestic spending.

Singh persuaded his vulnerable victim into signing over his inherited £300,000 family home in an up-market location in Harrogate.

He also made a sustained and determined but failed attempt to have the title deeds to the victim’s inherited Spanish holiday home fraudulently transferred to himself.

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Sukhdev Singh, 73, of Chelwood Drive in Leeds, has been jailed for exploiting a vulnerable Harrogate man out of his home and savings

Today (May 10), detectives who led the investigation, said Singh displayed astounding levels of arrogance, remaining unrepentant throughout his trial for what amounted to be a truly sickening and callous series of frauds perpetrated against a vulnerable victim.

The man Singh targeted - who North Yorkshire Police is not naming in order to protect his identity – is in his 50s but a psychologist who assessed him confirmed he is someone clearly vulnerable to potential exploitation.

Singh convinced the victim to let his sole-trader accountancy business, SS Singh & Co, receive and hold his savings subsequent to the death of his parents some years earlier.

Singh had learned of all the assets owned by the victim which had been bequeathed to him by his parents.

These assets included the property in Harrogate, an apartment in Spain and tens of thousands of pounds in offshore savings accounts held with banks based in Gibraltar and Jersey.

By 2016, Singh had transferred the victim’s Harrogate house into the ownership of a company owned and controlled by himself; namely SS and SK Lalli Ltd.

The Land Registry Title of the property was thereafter held in the name of SS & SK Lalli Ltd which appeared to show a purchase price paid during the transaction.

However, there was in fact no exchange of funds forthcoming from Singh to pay for the house which resulted in him obtaining the house for no payment whatsoever.

During the same year, Singh travelled to Gibraltar with the victim where he persuaded him to close his savings account and transfer the balance of more than £34,000 into the UK bank account of SS Singh & Co held by Mr Singh.

The victim was led to believe that Singh would look after these funds on his behalf.

Singh then spent the whole of the £34,000 over the following two weeks on jewellery, gambling transactions, transfers to bank accounts held by Singh in India and other personal domestic spending.

From 2016 onwards, the victim continued to live at the Harrogate property, but had unwittingly become the tenant of Singh’s company without so much as a tenancy agreement to protect him.

The crooked accountant then suggested to the man that he could move from his home address into a flat and had this happened, Singh would have been free to treat the house as his own.

In the meantime, Singh made attempts to ‘help’ the victim to close his Jersey-based savings account and to transfer the account funds into the business account of SS Singh & Co, however the police investigation was able to prevent this from happening.

Singh also met with an official in Spain and tried to arrange for the victim’s inherited holiday home to be signed over to him.

Fortunately, it failed in the eleventh-hour as officials became suspicious when Singh could not provide proof that the purchase funds had been paid to the victim.

The defendant created a series of documents containing false statements to support the frauds.

By 2019, the victim’s Harrogate property had fallen into a significant state of disrepair and he approached the local Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB) for help.

This started a chain of events whereby CAB raised concerns with social services.

Singh had let the home deteriorate so much that environmental health teams were brought in.

They became suspicious of the title transfer of the victim’s Harrogate home, and reported their suspicions to North Yorkshire Police’s Economic Crime Unit in 2019.

The force’s specialist Economic Crime detectives began a long and complicated investigation that would ultimately see Singh arrested in July of that year, and the victim’s remaining assets were secured.

Singh was eventually charged with four counts of fraud, all relating to the one victim.

During his trial, Singh refused to accept any wrongdoing and claimed he had acted entirely in the victim’s interests and had merely followed his instructions.

Singh attempted to portray his victim as a shrewd and articulate man.

However, a jury didn’t believe Singh and found him guilty of all counts on April 13 and after the verdict, he was remanded into custody.

A judge at York Crown Court today (May 10) jailed Sukhdev Singh for five years and six months.

After the sentence, former Detective Constable Ian Sharp, who led the investigation for North Yorkshire Police’s Economic Crime Unit, said: “This was a distressing case to investigate and my thoughts are very much with the victim.

“Sukhdev Singh had been an associate of the victim’s deceased parents, and had full knowledge of his learning difficulties.

"He is a manipulative fraudster who displayed a callous lack of empathy for his vulnerable victim.

"He exploited these vulnerabilities for his own advantage in order to systematically asset-strip him.

“Singh has behaved in an arrogant, deceitful way throughout and appears to have no remorse whatsoever for his crimes.

“It was a truly sickening and callous series of frauds committed against someone who should have been able to trust an accountant to act in his best financial interests.

“Once the case had been brought to the attention of North Yorkshire Police, the force’s Economic Crime Unit was able to safeguard the victim’s remaining assets, and to protect him.

"The fraudulent transfer of the victim’s Harrogate home has been reversed, and we will now pursue a Proceeds of Crime order against this defendant to confiscate his ill-gotten gains and from this compensate the victim for his lost inheritance.

“While this can’t change the facts of the ordeal he suffered at Singh’s hands, I hope it provides him with some comfort and security.

“I would also like to pay tribute to the agencies who played a significant part in bringing Singh to justice and in safeguarding the victim, particularly Harrogate Citizen’s Advice Bureau who first raised the alarm, also North Yorkshire County Council Social Workers and the Environmental Health team.”