Serial conman in the dock for "sophisticated and planned" fraud

Burnley Magistrates Court

Burnley Magistrates Court

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A serial conman sold farm land at Barnoldswick owned by his then partner and her sisters, and said to be worth £15,000, without their permission, when he claimed he owed money and was receiving threats, a court heard.

Wesley Atkinson (38) forged the signatures of the three women and then sold the land, which had stables on it, to a motor trader, in exchange for a Range Rover. The trader bought the land as an investment, but ended up out-of-pocket.

Burnley Magistrates Court was told the Land Registry was also deceived in the "sophisticated and planned "fraud, when Atkinson filled in the transfer form and sent it off. The scam involved a piece of agricultural land to the north east side of Salterforth Lane.

Atkinson, who claimed the vehicle was worth just under £5,000, is currently on post- sentence supervision after recently serving a 16- week jail term. He has a record for dishonesty, deception and fraud, spanning a decade.

The unemployed defendant, of Albrighton Road, Lostock Hall, Preston, admitted fraud by false representation by selling the land, claiming to be the rightful owner, at Barnoldswick, on March 12th, 2012. He was given 12 weeks in prison, suspended for a year, with 180 hours unpaid work. Atkinson was ordered to pay £85 costs.

District Judge Alan Jones said: "There is some element of sophistication here. He must have planned this matter."

He told the defendant:" Somebody has been out of pocket and a number of people have been deceived en route.

" Whoever may have lost financially is entitled to sue you."

Prosecutor Mrs Alex Mann told the hearing Atkinson said he had been having financial troubles at the time.

She said: "It seems perhaps he became desperate to get some money."

Mrs Mann continued: "He asked his partner whether they could sell this piece of land. He was told no and he, in effect, went and did it regardless, without the permission of the owners.

"He forged the signatures of the owners on the document and then he sold it."

"A motor trader says he bought the land from Wesley Atkinson after he had obtained it fraudulently and he bought that in exchange for a Range Rover. He values that at £15,000."

Mrs Mann said the three sisters got the land in 2002. She said :" They confirm that they had no knowledge of the land being sold. They were oblivious to any sale at the time.

"It was still being used as it ever was. They found out about it because there was some incident in relation to the land, somebody was trying to find out who owned it and it transpired it had been sold. In a statement, they say they were upset to learn this had happened.

"The land is theirs again."

The prosecutor continued :" There must be some level of planning. The signatures are forged. There are solicitors involved and people are being defrauded as well."

"His record shows this isn't a one-off. While he might have been desperate at the time, if that's the case, he must have been desperate for about 10 years because this kind of offence keeps happening.

"While there is planning, he's not that good at it, I suppose."

Mr John Rusius, defending Atkinson, said:"He got into some financial difficulties with a certain person who he didn't want to name. A lot of pressure was put on him to repay the money.

"He was never going to get away with it. When he was found out this year, he made full and frank admissions in interview.

"He got very upset about what he had done and expressed sincere regret and apologises to all concerned."