A FRAUDSTER who conned thousands of pounds from a former city college student he met on a dating site – in part to supposedly launch a professional snooker career – could face prison.
Benjamin Lewis met Robert Shepherd, who was studying at Worcester Sixth Form College, online before fleecing him out of a reported £45,000 over a six month period.
However, the defendant’s solicitor told magistrates on Thursday he had not seen any official confirmation regarding how much money was actually taken and was under the impression it was less than that.
Amateur snooker player Lewis claimed he needed the money to turn professional, buy a new car and visit his dad after a heart attack, amongst other things, the court heard.
Prosecutor Emily Clewer said the 24-year-old could face up to three years in prison, having pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation.
Lewis’s solicitor Christopher Hilton said his client has a gambling problem which a counsellor had confirmed was as a result of a bereavement in his family.
It is unclear which dating site the pair had met on or whether they ever met in person, but Ms Clewer said the defendant had “asked [Shepherd] for money to help his financial situation”.
He had confided in the victim about personal issues and said he’d lost his mother and as a result lost his job but his car had broken down and so he couldn’t get to interviews.
He also asked for money to be able to visit his dad in a hospital in North Wales, as he had supposedly suffered a heart attack.
At one stage, Ms Clewer said the defendant claimed he would pay Mr Shepherd back £2,300 but on his way to the cash point he claimed he was “stabbed in the leg and spent the remainder of the day in hospital”.
Having won a snooker tournament in Great Yarmouth, Lewis, of Oak Tree Close, Evesham, told the victim he would use the winnings to pay back some of the money owed.
However, this was then gambled away.
Ms Clewer said Mr Shepherd had only given him any money, “on the promise he would give the money back” but of the apparent £45,000 “has not had a penny back”.
She added that Lewis accepts he has a gambling addiction “for which he has sought help”.
Mr Hilton, defending, said “there are a number of mitigating issues that are relevant” including a family bereavement and his client’s gambling problem.
“He sought counselling for gambling and the counsellor attributed his gambling to a bereavement,” said Mr Hilton, of HCB Solicitors.
However, he said he was unsure about the exact amount of money actually defrauded.
“At present we have not seen any bank statements to corroborate any claims,” he said, referring to the £45,000 quoted.
The offences took place between May 1, 2016 and October 31, 2016.
Chair of the bench Judith Hulland said the offence was outside the court’s sentencing powers and it was sent to Worcester Crown Court.
Mr Hilton requested a pre-sentencing report be compiled before the hearing which is currently set for November 15.
Ms Hulland granted Lewis bail ahead of the upcoming hearing.
Ms Clewer said the CPS had asked for £185 in costs for bringing the case to court.