Con artist steals half a million from dying friend

Keith Cameron at Edinburgh Sheriff Court. Picture:  Lesley Donald
Keith Cameron at Edinburgh Sheriff Court. Picture: Lesley Donald
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A BUSINESSMAN who conned his dying friend out of almost half a million pounds has been found guilty of fraud.

Keith Cameron, of Russell Place, Trinity, persuaded terminally ill Jonathan Speirs to part with £476,864 by pretending his company, Chase Telecom Ltd, required money to win a valuable contract.

In a complicated ruse the judge slammed as “wicked and cruel”, Cameron, 54, repeatedly claimed the company was trading well and that investors had pumped millions of pounds into the business – insisting Mr Speirs could expect to receive a return of around £2 million within two years.

And Mr Speirs, a lighting architect and father-of-two who died from cancer in 2012, was even persuaded to pay a further £1595 along with an administration fee of £269 to increase his shareholding in the company to ten per cent.

But it later emerged that Cameron, a close friend and neighbour of the Speirs family for more than 15 years, had lied and that Chase Telecom Ltd was not a trading company and there were no investors or contracts.

Yesterday, the jury at Edinburgh Sheriff Court heard that a number of fake documents had been prepared relating to dividends, the state of the company and even a made-up board meeting.

Cameron claimed they had been “mock-ups, just to try and give John an illustration of how things would work out”.

Mr Speirs also received three payments amounting to £75,935 in what were supposedly dividends from the successful company, but it later turned out to be his own money funnelled back to him.

Questioned by fiscal depute Gerard Drugan about his “lavish lifestyle”, it was revealed Cameron had a mortgage of £1.34m, had bought cars for his wife and daughter, took holidays in Portugal in a luxury villa, regularly frequented top restaurants and sent his two daughters to fee-paying Mary Erskine’s School. One of his daughters also attended the American Academy of Drama and the Arts in New York and had a student flat near the Empire State Building.

The court heard Cameron had borrowed money from his parents, neighbours and loan companies such as Wonga, and was spending “astronomical amounts of money” in May 2012, when he had £110 in one bank account and 4p in another.

In court, Cameron admitted he had received e-mails from Mrs Speirs after her husband’s death attempting to get money back from him and accepted she had been misled by his answers.

The jury of eight men and seven women took just 30 minutes to reach their unanimous guilty verdict.

Describing the crimes as worse than “despicable”, Sheriff Michael O’Gray QC said: “To, in effect, steal from a man tens of thousands of pounds he has worked all his life to amass is bad enough. To do so in the knowledge that his only wish is for that money to provide for his wife and children in the years ahead [is] hideous.”

Cameron, who has been declared bankrupt, has been remanded in custody and will be sentenced next month.

alistair.grant@edinburghnews.com