Financial adviser conned £90,000 from pensioner

Preston Crown Court

Preston Crown Court

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A crooked financial adviser has been jailed after he abused his friendship with a vulnerable pensioner to con her out of more than £90,000.

Iain Sarvent, 47, acted as power of attorney – a position enabling a third party to make financial transactions on behalf of someone who is mentally incapacitated – to syphon the accounts of the 68-year-old Garstang woman, Preston Crown Court heard.

Sarvent – described to the court as “a man in financial dire straits” – used the woman’s life savings to buy himself a £26,000 BMW 355D Sports car, put a roof over his own head, house members of his family and set up an estate agency with his wife, all with the complete trust of his victim. Now the pensioner, who has no family support since her parents died, faces financial ruin after Sarvent bled her accounts dry for his own financial ends.

Sentencing Sarvent, of Westfield Crescent, Doncaster, to three years and eight months behind bars, Judge Robert Altham said: “These are mean and distasteful offences committed against a friend in breach of trust.”

Nicholas Courtney, prosecuting, told the court Sarvent had met the woman when he worked as a cashier in her local building society in Pontefract in the 1980s.

Throughout her working career, she followed in her father’s footsteps to make significant savings and investments.

By the time her father died in 2007, she was living a comfortable, mortgage-free life in a house in Garstang, where she had moved to be closer to her parents in their later years.

However, she continued to turn to Sarvent for financial advice, as a friend with an understanding of the financial sector.

From 2009 to 2013 Sarvent advised her to make a number of investments on the property market, taking out mortgages and securing funding against her assets in what Mr Courtney described as “wholly inappropriate” transactions.

He also opened up a joint bank account with the woman and when bank staff raised concerns about the amount of cash he was withdrawing and feeding into his own personal accounts he produced the power of attorney form, stating he had authority to act on behalf of her – despite the pensioner still being capable of making financial decisions for herself.

Between 2009 and 2013 Sarvent:

l Advised the woman to buy his parent’s house in Doncaster at £10,000 over the market value as a buy-to-let property before setting up home there himself, rent free.

l Paid £26,000 for a sports car, using the woman’s money, repaying £20,000 after taking out a loan but leaving £6,000 outstanding.

l Charged “finder’s fees” of £8,000 and £12,000 on properties purchased in Sheffield and Barnsley before setting up a business with his wife in the Sheffield property, housing his stepdaughter in the flat above for £125 a month less rent than the previous tenant, and moving into the Barnsley property himself, rent free – all without the lady’s knowledge.

l Syphoned £49,000 from the joint account he set up with the woman to set up Simpson Sarvent Estate Agency to pay restaurant bills, holidays, cleaning and personal shopping bills.

Mr Courtney said: “Iain Sarvent was a man in a financial mess who was happy to let the woman fund his lifestyle, believing she could afford to do so and probably intending he could repay her one day.”

The court heard Sarvent had debts and a credit card bill totalling more than £50,000.

Sarah Smith, defending, said: “He was deluded at the time in that he believed this was a genuine business plan and that it would succeed. He was desperate. He was a man who was in financial dire straits and was using the opportunity to access the funds.

“The business started legitimately but he understands he has completely destroyed the trust and friendship that was placed in him.

“He will never work in the financial sector again.”

In a victim personal statement, the pensioner said she had lost trust in people and professionals and had become more withdrawn and isolated as a result.

She now has a mortgage secured against the home she lives in and has lost access to the money she saved for a comfortable retirement.

Judge Altham said: “Part of he means you used to work your way into her trust is that you had acted as a financial adviser – someone she thought she could trust - but also a friend.

“Betrayal of a friend in this way is a particularly shameful sort of dishonesty.

“The hybrid of the two shows you to be an utterly cynical man.

“(The victim) was vulnerable not because she is unintelligent. She is plainly an intelligent woman who had, through her shrewdness, set out to save money.

“She was vulnerable because you set out to make her vulnerable. She had no close family to monitor your actions and you effectively picked her up and made her vulnerable by making her trust you - a trust that was utterly misplaced.”

Sarvent pleaded guilty to one count of theft and three of fraud.