A CONMAN who was jailed for defrauding his mother has been ordered by a judge to pay back more than £560,000.
Richard Willis, aged 66, was found guilty in 2015 of four counts of fraud by abuse of position and jailed for six years.
The trial heard Willis had positioned himself as the power of attorney to his aging mother Audrey’s accounts and helped himself to more than £600,000 to which he was not entitled.
Willis, who has since been released on licence, was ordered to appear before Judge Rupert Mayo for a Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) hearing at Northampton Crown Court during which he was ordered to re-pay £566, 365.58 within three months or face a further 40 months imprisonment in default.
Giving his judgement, Judge Mayo told Willis he was a “spendthrift” and that “money, as it became available to him, ‘burned a hole in his pocket’.”
He was said to have acquired a £285,000 property, Heron Cottage, in his home town of Newport Pagnell, which he claimed had been paid for largely as a result of a “gift” of two bank transfers of £185,000 and £190,000 from his mother.
He had also spent significant amounts of money on firearms, in particular shotguns, as well as high end cars including a Jaguar and a Land Rover, the judgement stated.
At an earlier hearing in 2017, prosecutors said Heron Cottage had been valued at only £15,000 more than what had been paid for it despite Willis claiming he had “ploughed” £250,000 into it.
A visit to the property in 2017 had found the roof and windows needed replacing and the central heating had not worked in more than two years.
The judgement stated: “…whenever Willis had access to his mother’s accounts he would go off and buy antiques, guns, cars and,via credit card, very nice food and wines. Sums were expended largely for personal expenditure rather than money that was being squirreled away for later on.”
At one point, Willis had even claimed that, at the time he was drawing money from his mother’s accounts, he was in possession of £150,000 of (South African) krugerrands which he later exchanged for UK currency via a Birmingham-based gold bullion dealer.
Further on, the judgement added: “Willis described himself as having a fascination with gun making and was, I am sure, keen to impress his shooting friends with the correct clothing, 4×4 vehicle and other accoutrements.”
Judge Mayo estimated Willis had benefited to the tune of £713,002 from his criminal conduct and issued a confiscation order for what was believed to be recoverable.
This included £220,000 from hidden assets, £297,143 from the sale of Heron Cottage, £30,000 from guns and £8,500 from motor vehicles.
Speaking afterwards, Northamptonshire Police financial investigator, Sue Lyon, said: “Willis was driven by greed to make money and lead an easy, lavish lifestyle, but this legislation allows us to go after him even when he was released from prison
“POCA legislation is a powerful tool that police can use to claw-back money from criminals and it sends a message to others that a life of crime does not pay.
“This is one of our biggest confiscation orders and, thanks to the investigation, the money recovered will go back to the estate of the late Audrey Willis and then distributed according to the original terms of the will.”
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