Walter Mitty-type fraudster jailed

A SERIAL fraudster who scammed people in Stevenage with a get rich quick con says he will have to go straight because the internet has caught up with him. Anyone who Googles Mark Castley s name will see reports of his convictions for dishonesty, Luton

A SERIAL fraudster who scammed people in Stevenage with a "get rich quick" con says he will have to go straight because the internet has caught up with him.

Anyone who "Googles" Mark Castley's name will see reports of his convictions for dishonesty, Luton Crown Court heard yesterday (Thursday).

Castley's deception knew no bounds, the court was told. He even paid for his wedding at a luxury hotel and helicopter trips to Ascot for his bride using dud cheques.

And in an ironic twist his bank mistakenly credited his account with £40,000 which he spent, said prosecutor Heather Shimmen.

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Castley, 44, who has lived in various parts of the country, pleaded guilty to eight fraud and deception charges committed in Hertfordshire and eight similar charges in Gloucestershire. He was jailed for a total of 44 months.

Miss Shimmen said Castley would convince people that he was about to buy liquidated laptops and computer equipment for which he already had a buyer. He gave them a chance to invest saying a quick profit was guaranteed.

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A former work colleague in Stevenage handed over £13,250 in November 2006 - money she and her husband had intended to use to pay off their mortgage before they retired. She received £3,000 back when she said she was going to police.

In June 2007, Castley obtained work through a recruitment agency with Allstat Ltd in Stevenage and almost immediately told a company director about his potential business deal.

The man invested, and six cheques that Castley gave him all bounced. He was left £26,000 out of pocket.

Also as part of his work Castley "invented" an order for nine million labels to be printed to boost his commission. By the time the company discovered it was a hoax it had spent £40,000 on meeting the order, said the prosecutor.

Castley was not arrested for those crimes. By the time he committed them he had met a woman over the internet.

"She understood he was a businessman and he treated her to a lavish lifestyle which culminated in them looking to buy a property together," said Miss Shimmen.

"They looked at a house in Bushley, near Tewkesbury for £640,000. The seller of that house became the next victim of the business scam."

The court heard that Castley lent authenticity to the scheme with fake bank accounts from Cyprus, showing his money was off shore and not immediately available, and a bogus e-mail confirming the deal was going through.

That man lost £7,750. At the same time Castley tricked two other men out of £7,500 with the same ruse.

It was in summer last year when £40,000 turned up in his Barclays bank account.

"He knew he was not entitled to it but he made no effort to return it. Instead he went about spending it as quickly as he could. He bought a Mitsubishi Shogun for £23,145 which he sold a few days later for £15,550 cash, for example," said Miss Shimmen

He was arrested in November 2007 on suspicion of dangerous driving, which was not proceeded with, and made frank admissions to police.

He had previous convictions dating back to 1991. His last jail term of four-and-a-half years was in 2004, and involved the same 'modus operandi', said the prosecutor.

John Lyons, defending, said: "He is a serial fraudster and realises more custody is the only sentence open to the court.

"He is a Walter Mitty character who lives the high life on the day by guile and warm words, without thinking about tomorrow.

"But he knows it will be increasingly difficult to continue in that way because of the internet. He appears on Google as a fraudster.

"However he wants to behave in a different fashion and is doing good work in custody helping other prisoners and raising money for charity."

Judge Andrew Bright QC told Castley: "These offences illustrate just what an accomplished fraudster you are and the time has come for society to be given a rest from your fraudulent activities.

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