Conman spared jail

A CONMAN who swindled thousands of pounds to live in a “fantasy world” has avoided jail.Stephen Askew was told that his fraud crossed the custody threshold but instead of prison he was ordered to do unpaid work for the community.

A CONMAN who swindled thousands of pounds to live in a “fantasy world” has avoided jail.

Stephen Askew was told that his fraud crossed the custody threshold but instead of prison he was ordered to do unpaid work for the community.

Askew, 45, was declared bankrupt in March 2002 after his furniture removal business STA UK Ltd slumped and was forced into liquidation.

Ipswich Crown Court heard that in May 1999 when the business failed Askew owed around £450,000 to bankers, solicitors and Inland Revenue and he was told to repay the sum at £300 a month.

Anthony Bate, prosecuting, said Askew “quickly fell behind with payments” and he was warned of the risk of bankruptcy.

Despite having a huge debt Askew re-mortgaged his Beyton home on August 17, 2000 and made a net profit of £48,974 but failed to pay back his creditors.

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On March 16 2001 he sold that property and made another £28,259. On April 20 2001 he sold a property in Thetford where his in-laws had lived and made £20,362. In July 2001 there was a petition for bankruptcy and by then Askew owed £933,000 to creditors.

Askew, now of North London, pleaded guilty to three charges of fraud by disposing of property with intent to defraud creditors.

Mr Bates said other matters that would remain on Askew's file but for which he was not being prosecuted included paying the Dorchester Hotel in Mayfair £550 by cheque for one nights stay on July 19 2001 and fraudulently acquiring £7,300 from a bank account belonging to a Mr Innes of Home Style Distribution Services.

Judge David Goodin said: “You have been something of a Walter Mitty, living beyond your apparent means. Living, to a degree, in a world of fantasy with an expenditure which you were unable to meet”.

He added that he hoped the eight weeks Askew had served in custody on remand would make him think twice about cheating people out of their money in the future.

Askew was sentenced to a 12-month supervision order including a THINK FIRST programme and 100 hours unpaid work.

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