A ‘predatory’ financial adviser has been jailed for stealing £350,000 from vulnerable and elderly victims who considered him to be their friend.
Peter Bottomley, 60, helped himself to huge sums of cash which he spent on holidays abroad and even his own daughter’s wedding.
Then, as his four victims became unable to make their own decisions, he stepped in to make himself a beneficiary of their wills.
Bottomley was yesterday ordered to spend six years behind bars by a judge who told him: “You are a hypocrite, a liar and a thief.
“Your crimes are despicable. You must be seriously punished.”
Bottomley, of Hall Drive, Morecambe, previously admitted eight charges of fraud and theft between 2008 and 2014.
Prosecutor Andrew West told Preston Crown Court that Bottomley’s first victim was cerebral palsy sufferer Peter Dixon.
“Mr Bottomley claimed to have power of attorney over his affairs,” said Mr West. “He controlled all the finances, handing him money when he deemed it necessary.”
Mr West added: “Mr Bottomley had a similar pattern of behaviour which was financial fraud towards a number of elderly and vulnerable people.
“Mr Bottomley was given responsibility for their financial affairs and often claimed he had lasting power of attorney over these people’s affairs when he actually didn’t.
“In this position of financial power, and as power of attorney, he stole money from these people which amounted to £356,883.16
“He created a number of documents which assisted him in drawing up wills which would have been to his benefit had the police not got involved.”
Mr Dixon’s cousin, Brenda Morton found evidence of amounts ranging from £22,000 to £67,500 paid to Bottomley from Mr Dixon’s assets through direct bank transfers and trust funds. The court heard how Miss Morton consulted a solicitor and the police became involved.
In a victim impact statement read out to the court, Miss Walton said: “I do not know how this man, a so-called friend could treat a vulnerable, gentle man in this way, so cold hearted and uncaring without a care for anyone but himself.
“He let Peter down badly in his time of need.”
As police investigated Bottomley’s handling of Mr Dixon’s affairs, they uncovered further victims, which included sisters Madalena ‘Peggy’ Billington and Olive Singleton, both in their 80s.
The court heard how the pair lived together and both gave Bottomley power of attorney.
However, a social worker became involved when they were both diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and didn’t have the ability to make financial decisions.
Therefore, suspicions were raised when Madalena transferred more than £77,000 to Bottomley to be placed into a financial trust.
Bottomley also targeted 87-year-old Henry Charles Asprey, known as Harry, who lives in a care home in Morecambe, Lancs.
The pensioner suffers from Alzheimer’s and the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning, and has known Bottomley for over 30 years.
After convincing Mr Asprey to place £45,000 in a trust, Bottomley arranged for £46,500 to be transferred to an account in his name, for him to make the necessary arrangements.
As a gift to thank Bottomley for his help, Mr Asprey told him he could keep the remaining balance of £1,500 for the “services provided”.
But the court heard that the money was never placed in trust, and instead placed in a separate ING account belonging to Bottomley.
In a victim impact statement read out to the court, Mr Asprey’s son David said: “When this case was brought to us by the police it was a total shock. Mr Bottomley has been a family friend for over 30 years.
“He would attend family events and functions and he attended my own wedding in 1992.
“My dad trusted him to allow him to control his financial affairs. We trusted him too and allowed him to do this.”
Defending Bottomley, Nick Courtney said: “What undoubtedly is clear is that Mr Bottomley stole money from people who regarded him as a friend and that makes this offence the most serious and I can say they are despicable offences.”
A Proceeds of Crime Act hearing has been scheduled for June 2016, when it is expected Bottomley will be ordered to repay his victims in full.
Following the sentence, DI Simon Dent of Lancaster CID said: “This has been a long and complex investigation. Where we see that a criminal has financially benefited from crime we will do everything we can to put them before the courts and bring them to justice. We will be seeking action through the Proceeds of Crime Act to confiscate his assets, which will in turn see the stolen money given back to the victims.”