Scarrington man who spent millionaire mother's money on escorts and gambling spared jailed at Winchester Crown Court.
A man who spent £70,000 of his 92-year-old millionaire mother’s money on escorts and gambling, after gaining power of attorney over her, was spared jail.
Rupert Clarke’s widowed mother had dementia, failing eyesight and ‘the infirmities of old age’, a court was told.
Prosecutors told how the vulnerable woman had sold her home for £430,000 and lived off her £1m estate after the death of her husband, who had been a director at the AA recovery services.
Clarke, of Scarrington, who lived off benefits and credits, was given power of attorney over Janet Clarke, who lives in Hampshire, on February 15, 2018.
Prosecuting, Edward Franklin said: “Between January 12 2019 and May 30 2019, there were 61 credits that were made either directly from his mother’s bank accounts, or first of all from his mother’s bank to his, thereafter to five individuals.”
The court heard that the individuals were five Romanian women. On one day, February 4, 2019, Clarke had made 28 separate payments amounting to £14,800.
Lloyds bank blocked Mrs Clarke’s account and launched an investigation into the payments where they spoke to her son.
“He was asked about the transfers and told [Lloyds] that his mother supported him financially. He could not explain the transfers or withdrawals of large amounts of cash,” Mr Franklin said.
Clarke had claimed he was giving the five women, one of who he said was a family friend, money for rent and shopping, but later admitted they were escorts, the court was told.
Mr Franklin said: “They would come to his house unnannounced. They would show him pictures of their young children and offer him physical affection and thereafter they would ask him for transfers of money.”
Clarke claimed he had allowed the escorts to come into his home and that they had then used his laptop to access his bank accounts.
The prosecution alleged Clarke had tried to “set up a defence of extortion” by notifying the police when he had one of the escorts around, but the woman informed officers that the defendant had frequently contacted her of his own accord.
Mr Franklin said that a further £18,200 of Mrs Clarke’s money was spent on gambling websites by her son in June 2019.
“The victim was undeniably particularly vulnerably due to her age and mental capacity”, Mr Franklin said. “If nothing else, he accepts that he was reckless in protecting his mother’s finances.”
In a letter written to the judge at Winchester Crown Court, Clarke told how not a day goes by where he did not regret his actions.
“I love my mother so much and I looked after her over the past years, after my father died 12 years ago. After he died, that is when it all went wrong.”
Clarke said he had worked on golf courses and on canal boats while his father was alive, but after his death had spiralled into depression and alcoholism.
Hannah Hurley, defending, described Clarke as quite a hopeless and sad man reliant on emergency services after becoming suicidal.
The barrister said: “I do not think he should have been named power of attorney, given his limitations and I do not think he wanted that responsibility.
“She [Mrs Clarke] does not know why she has not seen her son all of this time. Him being in custody for the last years or months of her life is not going to be helpful for anyone.”
Hannah Hurley added that Clarke was seeking to make amends if he could and that his mother’s living conditions had not been affected at all by his fraud as she withdrew a substantial pension and her estate was worth over £1m.
Clarke, of Hawksworth Road, had initially denied fraud, but later admitted the offence after a psychological report was produced.
Recorder James Watson, sentencing, told Clarke: “It is a fraud of a high category in ordinary language because it involves the abuse of the power of attorney that you held over your mother and her bank accounts and her funds, so it amounts to a gross abuse of the trust that was placed in you.
“There were a number of occasions when you evaded and lied in response to questions. Those may well be lies which would lead to a significant uplift in the appropriate sentence, because of a lack of remorse.
The judge said the case was on the cusp of custody but decided to suspend it after stating that Clarke posed no risk and had no previous convictions.
Clarke was sentenced to 22 months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months, with a requirement to complete 25 Rehabilitation Activity Requirement Days and 150 hours of unpaid work.
Mr Recorder Watson said Clarke could not afford to pay the £70,000 back to his mother, but told the court: “If he is able to adhere to his intention to make repayments, then that may be a telling factor in his favour in seeking to try and build any bridges which can be built after this gross breach of trust and substantial dishonesty.”