22nd Jan, 2020

'Predatory' serial swindler from Rugby jailed

Correspondent 11th Jan, 2017

A PREDATORY conman who carried out a series of frauds, including swindling a friend who believed he was helping pay off her rent arrears, has been given a series of prison terms.

Martyn Hart, who had 58 convictions on his record for offences of theft or deception, pleaded guilty at Warwick Crown Court to two charges of fraud and one of theft.

He had also pleaded guilty to further offences of fraud, including conning a woman after cruelly offering to help her pay rent she owed to Daventry council.

Hart, 46, of Webb Ellis Court, Hillmorton, Rugby, was given a series of consecutive prison sentences totalling two years and ten months.

Prosecutor Stefan Kolodynski described Hart – who was first convicted in November 1987 for theft and deception, and went on to commit offences ‘habitually’ – as a career criminal and confidence trickster.

In November last year Hart convinced the owner of a Dunchurch cafe – who knew him as ‘Mark’ – that he owned a mobile phone shop in Daventry, and offered to sell her a phone for £200 in cash plus an older phone in part-exchange.

She handed over £100 that day and a further £20 the following day, and was given a receipt with Hart’s former address on it – but the phone was never delivered.

Hart fobbed her off with a series of excuses before agreeing to give her back the cash, but failed to do so.

He also offered to repair a car belonging to a shopkeeper of a convenience store in Featherbed Lane, who also knew him as Mark.

The trusting shopkeeper agreed, handing Hart £175 to carry out the work and giving him the keys to the car.

Hart drove off in it, and later contacted the shopkeeper to say that more work needed doing, for which he was given a further £100, but the car was never returned.

In fact, after pocketing the £275, Hart sold it for £200 for scrap, but when he was arrested in January he claimed he was being blamed for a legitimate transaction which had gone wrong.

A woman who Hart knew for many years owed Daventry District Council around £6,000 in rent and council tax.

In July 2014 she was taken to court, and Hart offered to pay off the outstanding rent himself as long as she repaid him on a weekly basis.

She made regular payments to him of £140 a week, as agreed – but in October that year the council told her they had been paid just £10 by Hart.

She reported the theft to the police, but when questioned Hart brazenly claimed he had paid off her debt, even though it could be proved he had not.

In December 2014 Hart got a brand new Ford Focus Zetec through Motability Operations on a three-year hire agreement, but in June last year arranged to return it because of a mechanical problem.

But he failed to do so, spinning lie after lie to explain where the car was, even claiming it was in a police compound, when in fact he had stolen it and sold it to a car dealer for £5,700.

It was later discovered he had fraudulently obtained insurance from two companies while he had the car after failing to disclose his convictions, added Mr Kolodynski.

Paul Tubb, defending, conceded: “It is hard for me to put Mr Hart forward as anything other than a dishonest individual.”

But he argued that because Hart had spent 176 days in custody, almost the equivalent of a 12-month sentence, he could be given a suspended sentence.

He said Hart had received treatment for prostate cancer in 2010, but it had returned, and plans for further treatment had to be put on hold when he was remanded in custody.

Jailing Hart, Judge Stephen Eyre QC pointed out he had been given a suspended sentence in 2013.

“Shortly after the expiry of period of suspension, you returned to deliberate, mean, dishonest offending. You are assessed as capable of behaving in a predatory manner.”

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