By STEPH COCKROFT FOR MAILONLINE
PUBLISHED: 11:51, 9 June 2015 | UPDATED: 12:35, 9 June 2015
An ‘evil’ conwoman who escaped a Crimewatch appeal by fleeing to Australia has been jailed for six years after duping an animal charity and several businessmen as part of a £450,000 fraud spree.
Katrina Jones became a wanted woman more than a decade ago after conning three high-earning businessmen into buying properties which she claimed had been repossessed.
After disappearing to the other side of the world when her scam came to light, the 53-year-old returned to the UK under a different name and plundered £88,000 from a charity’s bank account by befriending the founder, whose husband was dying of a terminal illness.
Jones, from Sheffield, whose frauds were said to be ‘carefully planned’, has now been jailed after pleading guilty to 19 counts of fraud.
Describing her as ‘cold-blooded, evil and malevolent’, Judge David Wynn Morgan said Jones’s frauds had been ‘carried out with considerable nerve’.
He told her: ‘There is no evidence to suggest any money you received from the frauds was spent on anything or anyone other than yourself.
‘You are a cold-blooded, evil and malevolent confidence trickster.’
The court heard how Jones had fled to Australia after her picture was featured on Crimewatch as part of a ‘wanted’ campaign in 2004.
At the time, she had been using chauffeur-driven luxury cars to pose as a seller for HM Treasury.
She told businessmen that she was selling repossessed properties on behalf of the government, a scam which earned her £394,000.
Prosecutor Roger Griffiths said Jones conned the businessmen in South Wales and London between April and July 2004.
He told Cardiff Crown Court: ‘She told the businessmen she was a selling agent for Her Majesty’s Treasury and that she could sell them repossessed property at a reduced price.
‘She gave them information about properties they should bid for and they handed over cheques for properties they were told they had successfully bought.
Jones fled to Australia after she was featured on Crimewatch
‘She produced documents that gave the impression she was working for the Treasury.’
The court heard how Jones even used chauffeur-driven luxury cars to drive the businessmen past the houses in the Home Counties which she told them were up for sale.
Sue Smith, who founded the dog charity, was caring for her dying husband when Jones conned her
Mr Griffiths said: ‘On occasions they were chauffeur-driven in a Jaguar by her friend to properties in South Wales and the Home Counties.’
But Jones’s scam unravelled when one of the businessmen became suspicious about the house sales.
He called the Treasury only to discover Jones was not an employee and that properties are never sold in the way.
But, after an appeal was launched, Jones fled to Australia.
When she returned to the UK in 2009, she befriended Sue Smith, the founder of K9 Crusaders whose husband was dying from a terminal illness. She took over as treasurer of the Cornish charity in 2009 and stole £88,000 from the account.
Mr Griffiths said: ‘She became aware of the health problems of Mrs Smith’s husband and boasted of her high-powered job as an insolvency practitioner.
‘She gained charitable status for the group, which took a great deal of weight off Mrs Smith’s shoulders, and then ensured she became treasurer.’
Jones then set about eating away at a generous £100,000 legacy left to the charity by an elderly pensioner after their death.
Her scams were uncovered after the trickster fell out with the charity founders, who discovered there was a huge hole in the finances.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3116711/Evil-conwoman-escaped-Crimewatch-appeal-disappearing-Australia-jailed-six-years-fleecing-animal-charity-businessmen-450-000-frauds.html#ixzz3ceacbVb1