Fraudster's fake army record in eBay scam defence

A '˜Walter Mitty'-styled fraudster who conned money from his ex-partner in an eBay scam and stole scaffolding from his boss told a court he had mental problems after serving in Afghanistan and Iraq with the Paras.

Monday, 15th February 2016, 5:30 pm
Updated Monday, 15th February 2016, 5:35 pm
Nottingham Crown Court.

Nathan Johnson, 30, of Shelley Street, Worksop, told Nottingham Crown Court he had served with the 4th Battallion of the Parachute Regiment between 2002 and 2006 before he was forced to leave for mental health reasons.

But neither he, nor his defence team, were able to provide any proof of his army career, or any acceptable evidence of his problems, even though the case had been adjourned twice for those very reasons.

Judge Michael Stokes said: “The army keep impeccable records - they can tell you the name of every soldier in World War One. I don’t believe he served for four years in a unit of the parachute regiment without a record.

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“I am going to have to form the conclusion that he was never in the army and this was an attempt to deceive the court.

“He was admitted into the Paras at the age of 16. That was very clever of him.”

Caroline Bradley, mitigating, said: “He maintains that he was in the army. He gave me a detailed history of when he joined. He said he wasn’t a life-style soldier.”

Johnson then claimed he had pictures of himself in Basra and Helmand province on his phone, but was unable to produce them.

An email from Johnson’s therapist claimed he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and ‘mild Peter Pan syndrome.’

“It seems to me he has got very mild Walter Mitty syndrome,” said Judge Stokes. “No qualified therapist would send an email. They would send a report.

“If he is suffering from PTSD then that would be a very significant factor - but since before Christmas he has done nothing practical to establish any diagnosis by any qualified person.

“There is not one iota of evidence to support anything he says.”

Johnson had previously admitted defrauding a friend of over £4,000 and stealing scaffolding from his employer.

Almas Ben-Aribia, for the prosecution, said Johnson persuaded an ex-girlfriend to sell £4,093 of fishing equipment for him on her eBay account in December 2013.

And he persuaded another friend to use his Paypal account to transfer the money from the sale to his building society account.

Johnson’s ex-partner received complaints from the buyers of the fishing gear and her eBay and Paypal accounts were frozen.

Miss Ben-Aribia told the court Johnson had been working as a manager at Inspired Scaffolding Services Ltd in Bilsthorpe when he made arrangements to sell a lorry-load of scaffolding for £2,000 over the weekend of August 8 to 10, 2014.

He admitted the theft on August 4, 2015 and told police he had a gambling habit and that his ‘head was in a bad place’ following the death of a relative, said Miss Ben-Aribia.

She said the theft was aggravated by the fact another employee had been involved and it was committed while Johnson was on police bail for the eBay fraud and another charge of taking a car without the owner’s consent, which he admitted in June 2013.

The court heard he had four previous convictions for five offences, including theft in July 2008.

The court heard he had re-paid his ex-girlfriend, who said she did not want him to go to prison.

Johnson also claimed he had saved money to repay his former employer, but attempts to find an email with his bank statements on the phone of a friend in the public gallery were also unsuccessful.

Miss Bradley said: “Mr Johnson has done nothing in his own defence. Why that is I cannot say.”

Judge Stokes sentenced Johnson to 16 months for the fraud and the theft, and an additional month for breaching his bail in January 2016, all suspended for 18 months.

Johnson must also pay £2,000 compensation to the scaffolding firm and £500 costs.

After sentencing, Judge Stokes ordered a police investigation into Johnson’s claims of military service and mental health problems.

He told Johnson: “You have been given many opportunities to tell the truth and you maintain that this is the truth.

“If it turns out to be false you will be prosecuted for perverting the course of justice.”