Fake Army officer branded ‘danger to women’ as he’s jailed for £20,000 romance fraud involving Southsea victim

A ‘CHARMING’ love rat who deceived women out of more than £20,000 pretending to be both an army officer and police trainee has been thrown behind bars.

Friday, 19th March 2021, 7:00 am

Justice was finally served on ‘con man’ Joseph Element, also known as Ezra Kearns, who was locked up after being branded a ‘danger to women’ for his ‘web of deceit’ that left his victims ‘heartbroken’.

Former Southsea resident Element turned the lives of two women – from Portsmouth and Barnsley – upside down during his fraudulent campaign.

But his behaviour also cast a long shadow over the parents of his Barnsley victim – with the mum admitting she made an attempt on her life following the emotional and financial turmoil she was still left paying for following his ruthless exploitation.

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Joseph Element also known as Ezra Kearns was jailed at Sheffield Crown Court. Picture: South Yorkshire Police

The 25-year-old’s callousness started after he began a relationship with a woman in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, in November 2016 before moving in and living with her family after claiming he had a troubled upbringing.

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Sheffield Crown Court heard the woman thought Element was ‘great’ and ‘charismatic’ to begin with while also sympathising with him despite being ‘fed a diet of lies’ including how he had a twin who was killed in a car crash when they were children.

He also falsely claimed he was caught in an explosion while serving with the army in Afghanistan before he had to retire.

‘His behaviour caused her to be suspicious but she put it to one side,’ prosecutor Matthew Burdon said.

His financial deception started when he asked to borrow £900 from the woman, which took six months to pay back.

Between June and September 2017 the defendant said he needed money to pay for training with South Yorkshire Police.

In total his victim handed over a total of £4,930 to Element – money she would never see again.

The victim told the court: ‘I thought I could trust him and thought we had a future together. I am heartbroken at what he did to me and my family.

‘I was in love with someone I didn’t even know.’

During his two years living with the family, Element also duped the woman’s mum into giving him £12,000 after she took out a loan to pay him.

The mum, breaking down in tears, told the court she suffers with stress and anxiety before adding: ‘I even attempted to take my own life.’

The victim added: ‘I find it hard that someone we invited into our family home and lived with us for two years tried to destroy our family with their deceit and by defrauding us.’

The court heard the defendant also admitted fraud by applying for a British Army MOD identity card while not serving in the army in November 2018 – resulting in a community order with 240 hours of unpaid work at Portsmouth Magistrates’ Court.

In January 2019 he moved on to his next victim, who lived in Portsmouth, after befriending her through a dating app whilst claiming he was an officer in the army.

He claimed his parents died when he was a child before his foster mum also died leaving him with ‘substantial savings’.

Element convinced the woman to loan him money with her handing over a total of £7,284.

But her suspicions were aroused after he failed to repay the money and when she found out about his sentence for a false army identity card.

The woman went to police resulting in Element being arrested on November 26 last year before he tried to flee the country for France.

The victim said at court: ‘What he did has affected me and my family in so many ways. He took my whole life savings.

‘It has emotionally affected me profoundly and I’m anxious when I meet new people. He said he was in the military but it was all lies.’

The woman said other women had been in contact with her after being deceived by Element – with the accounts ‘taking me back every time’.

She added: ‘Until he’s taken off the streets women are not safe.’

Richard Onslow, defending, said Element began to get into a ‘terrible financial tangle’ in 2017 and told ‘untruths to get out of it’.

‘His desire to repay the money is genuine,’ he said. ‘He expresses remorse for what he did.’

The barrister told the court Element had served in the navy for a ‘short period’ before he was medically discharged.

Element, of The Crescent, Bolton upon Dearne, Barnsley, South Yorkshire, admitted three counts of fraud by false representation.

Mr Onslow pleaded for Element’s prison sentence to be suspended but judge Sarah Wright said only an immediate jail term could be justified as the defendant ‘could not be trusted’.

‘The consequences are far reaching and while you may not be violent, you are still someone who is a danger to women,’ she said.

She added: ‘You charmed your way into their lives with a string of lies and span a web of deceit leaving them heartbroken and bereft.’

Element was jailed for two years and six months.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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