Page last updated at 14:19 GMT, Thursday, 18 March 2010

Gang 'preyed' on dying widow stealing her life savings

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Sean White laundered money for a gang who intimidated Anne Cornock into handing over 272,000

An estate agent has been sentenced to two years for his part in a gang who stole £270,000 life savings from an elderly, dying widow.

Sean White, 25, laundered money for an organised crime group who targeted Anne Cornock, 76, from Sully, Vale of Glamorgan, Cardiff Crown Court heard.

It happened shortly after Mrs Cornock had work done on her driveway.

"This is one of the most serious cases of fraud we have seen in south Wales," a police spokesman said.

Acting Detective Superintendent Steve Benson-Davison added: "It had a devastating affect on the elderly victim, who has sadly since passed away."

Sean White
Sean White admitted two charges of money laundering

Sentencing White, Judge Paul Thomas said: "Without thoroughly dishonourable people like you, these men who exploited Mrs Cornock could not have profited so easily."

The two-year term included 12 months in jail and 12 months on licence.

White, from the Roath area of Cardiff, had earlier admitted two charges of money laundering under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

They relate to bank transfers of £60,000 and £55,000 made in 2008 by Mrs Cornock, a retired civil servant.

Prosecutor Michael Jones told how the gang "preyed on" the widow, in connection with the relaying the driveway at her home.

"They employed smoke and mirrors to confuse her," he said. "She recollected six or seven people calling at her home chasing payments.

"They told her that she had overpaid but that she still owed money to them. She paid them in cash, cheques and money transfers for various sums including £9,000 and £20,000.

"She was told this would clear her debt from their computer and that they would then reimburse her."

But Mr Jones told Cardiff Crown Court how White and other members of the gang visited the Mrs Cornock's house in Sully, near Cardiff, to get money.

Anne Cornock
Our mother was a sensible, cautious woman who had worked hard all her life... if she could fall for this sort of scam then anyone could
Anne Cornock's son, David

White was caught out when Mrs Cornock's son discovered bank statements with payments bearing his name.

Mr Jones added: "Police arrested him and White admitted laundering the cash after being threatened by a gang of Gypsies."

White told the police he did not know where the money had gone, adding "I know Gypsies didn't have bank accounts".

"Despite police investigations those others who deceived and preyed on Anne Cornock in this shameful way have never been found," Mr Jones said.

Mrs Cornock, who son David is BBC Wales' parliamentary correspondent, was diagnosed with cancer and died in November last year.

"Our mother was a sensible, cautious woman who had worked hard all her life," Mr Cornock said.

"If she could fall for this sort of scam then anyone could. It could be your mother, it could be your granny, it could be anyone.

"So people really need to be on their guard against this sort of doorstep crime."

Mrs Cornock's daughter, Helen O'Neil, said her mother had been hounded for the last 16 months of her life.

"She was living breathing this 24/7," she said.

"She was being hounded in her own house; persecuted, if you like, by phone calls demanding money, saying that they would get her money back but she still hadn't paid enough.

"She ignored her own health trying to rectify this situation."



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