Fraudster with a ‘glib tongue’ took Southsea OAP’s life savings

James Condliffe
James Condliffe
Copperfields Hair Studio, on Hayling Avenue in Baffins. Picture: Google Street View PPP-171118-153719001

Hair salon in Baffins damaged by thieves

A DEVASTATED pensioner from Southsea told a court how a fraudster tricked her out of her £75,000 life savings.

James Condliffe’s ‘glib tongue’ persuaded Margaret Badger, 78, to part with the cash to secure her future.

Arrogant Condliffe was treated like a grandson by Mrs Badger as he promised her a Welsh cottage home and a care package.

But he never owned the land, never had planning permission and was being chased by debt agencies.

He also took £18,000 from another elderly lady in a similar fraud.

Sitting in her wheelchair at Portsmouth Crown Court, Mrs Badger watched as Condliffe was jailed for four years and nine months.

Charity worker Mrs Badger, who lives in Southsea, had responded to Condliffe’s advert in The Lady magazine in July last year, believing she was ensuring she would be cared for as her health deteriorated.

Over four months she paid huge sums into his account and he even took her to see the land at Pen Y Rhos, Llanerfyl, Powys, Wales where he lived.

He ate dinner with her at his home, visited her three times a month and called her every day.

‘She’s devastated and feels like she’s lost a grandson,’ said prosecutor Matthew Jewell, reading from her statement.

‘What hurts the most is the loss of trust because the defendant knew how important the money was to her. She’s amazed at how anyone can behave in that way and be so convincing.’

He added: ‘She’s also had to move from her flat as it’s no longer fit for her needs and she doesn’t know what to do.

‘She’s in a very dark place and cries on the inside.’

The court heard Mrs Badger – who saved all her life for care as she got older – can no longer afford the private operations she needs.

Mr Jewell added: ‘Mrs Badger paid the defendant significant sums of money, which she understood was to go towards that cottage and care package.

‘She received, as far as that was concerned, nothing at all and lost as a result a significant part of her life savings.’

A neighbour became suspicious and police were alerted. They arrested Condliffe, 34, as he arrived at Mrs Badger’s flat.

Officers found paperwork linked to another victim, Shirley Drake-Brockman, 81, from Portishead, Somerset, who lost £18,000 in two bank transactions when she responded to another of Condliffe’s adverts in March this year.

Sentencing, judge Ian Pearson said: ‘Despite your protestations to the contrary you are arrogant, you are crass and you’re a cruel exploiter of elderly ladies using what is obviously a glib tongue to bamboozle them to hand over their money.’

He added: ‘Their hopes and their dreams really have been shattered.’

Condliffe, who has a previous fraud conviction for bounced cheques in 2013, took the ‘unusual’ step of reading out a letter instead of his barrister Rory Keene mitigating on his behalf.

Over a video link from prison in Winchester, he said he’d taken a ‘deal’ with the prosecution to admit two counts of fraud, but added he cared for his unwell sister, looked after children and was going to lose his fiancee.

He portrayed his actions as ‘bad business decisions,’ adding: ‘I’ve made mistakes, none bigger than this. I did not benefit from my actions. I’m not a serial fraudster, I’m a loving, caring family man that has lost everything.’

Judge Pearson dismissed his claims, adding: ‘It was all pie in the sky and you allowed that money to be carted away for whatever purpose.

‘It was completely unrealistic and the money was used for your own purposes.’

The judge added: ‘I’m unable to accept what you say, you’re making excuses, you’re seeking to exonerate yourself, you’re not showing any real remorse.’