A 77-YEAR-OLD scam victim turned crook, who stole thousands from his elderly friend in the hope of paying for a future bride, has said: ‘I’m sorry.’
Former Royal Marine Major Richard Poupart said ’the whole thing escalated’ after he met a woman online who claimed she was in Nigeria and needed money to unlock her late father’s fortune.
It is believed cancer sufferer Poupart, who regularly does volunteer work, was duped after meeting the young blonde American on dating website Mate1.com.
He initially sent the woman, who claimed to be 35, his own money in good faith.
But Poupart’s quest for love turned to disaster when he paid out £10,140 of neighbour Stephen Searson’s money using his elderly friend’s bank card.
Poupart, who represented himself in court, and said he is extremely embarrassed about his actions, said: ‘Somehow or other I will get the money back for him.’
The pensioner said he started talking to the woman virtually as soon as he went on to the dating website.
They started messaging each other outside the site, including on Facebook.
Then the woman asked for money.
Initially it was £100, which he paid, and she later told him it was for rent.
At one point he said thousands were paid into his account, purporting to be from someone who was sending money through the ex-marine to a church in Nigeria, which he said he passed on.
She told him she lived in Nigeria and was heiress to a £2.3m fortune, but that she needed about £14,000 to pay ‘extras’ on the estate to get the inheritance.
Poupart has said he dealt with three people who said they were solicitors acting on the woman’s behalf.
He tried to get a loan but couldn’t, but was then contacted by someone saying they were from a bank in India which would lend him money – but he would have to pay some cash out first. He told The News he believes he has paid out about £12,000 in a three-and-a-half year period – much of which was Mr Searson’s money.
He said. ‘The whole thing just escalated. It just carried on.
‘Every day they wanted more money. By that stage I had put a lot of money in myself and I just wanted to finish it. I should have stopped but there were just too many things hanging on getting the loan. I feel so silly.’
He came into possession of Mr Searson’s bank card when he became ill.
Portsmouth Crown Court heard at some point the victim gave Poupart his card to transfer £400 to his wife in the Philippines.
But because of his ill health Mr Searson did not chase him for the card to be returned, and Mr Poupart kept it.
The deception came to light when someone who was helping with Mr Searson’s affairs asked him to return the card. It was later discovered the money was missing and the police were alerted.
But Poupart kept the card and withdrew the money, which he then sent on.
Poupart, of Southsea – who has no previous convictions, is a member of three choirs and also helps the homeless, after once experiencing a spell of homelessness himself – admitted stealing Mr Searson’s bank card.
He admitted stealing £10,440 between April and July last year.
The divorcee was sentenced to three months in jail suspended for a year and was ordered to repay £1,200.
‘You had been duped in a classic fraud from Nigeria’
THE judge who spared Richard Poupart a jail term said his hands were tied legally in terms of the sum he could order him to repay.
Poupart, 77, stole £10,140 from elderly friend and neighbour Stephen Searson’s bank account in a three-month period.
However any order for compensation made by Judge Richard Price could last for only 12 months by law and had to take into account factors including Poupart’s age and means.
Ordering him to repay £1,200 in the next year and handing him a three-month suspended sentence, Judge Price said: ‘There is no doubt that you owe that money but in this court my powers are restricted to effectively a sum which can be paid off in 12 months.’
Addressing Poupart at Portsmouth Crown Court in relation to his actions, Judge Price said: ‘You had been duped, you had been unbelievably naive, but I’m satisfied, on particularly what I have heard from the probation officer, that the naivety was genuine naivety.’
He added: ‘ You had been duped in a classic fraud from Nigeria into sending money there to assist somebody you thought you were going to marry, to come to this country.
‘But of course you weren’t going to marry her, of course she wasn’t going to come to this country, it was a scam.’