Army vet who conned widow out of life savings facing jail
A 78-year-old Army widow was conned out of her life savings by an ex Royal Military Policeman who befriended her after she lost her husband to cancer.
Ann Hargreaves had hesitantly embarked on a new relationship with David Potts after chatting to him on a social media group for army veterans.
Potts, 68, earned her trust by telling her he had served alongside her late husband in the regiment known as the ‘Redcaps’, a court heard.
After an online romance lasting two years, she sold her house in remote Argyll and he moved from Germany to Scotland to set up home with her in a rented house in Whitburn, West Lothian.
The Mercedes driving conman then took advantage of her trust to gain control of her finances and steal all her money.
He now faces spending the rest of his retirement behind bars after being convicted of defrauding the trusting grandmother out of £20,000.
Livingston Sheriff Court heard that Ann trusted Potts so much that she even granted him power of attorney over her affairs.
That gave him access to the £500 a month pension her loving husband had set up for her before he died.
She only found out about his deceit when her landlady arrived at her home with an eviction notice because, unknown to her, Potts hadn’t been paying the rent.
Sheriff Peter Hammond found Potts, who now lives near Cambridge, guilty of the “cynical and protracted fraud” after a five day trial at Livingston Sheriff Court.
He said Potts had manoeuvred himself into a position of trust such that Mrs Hargreaves did not challenge where her money had gone.
Said: “An example of the further extensive control the accused gained over Mrs Hargreaves’ affairs was when he gained power of attorney over her to take full control of her affairs when there was no need for that.
“That was at a time when – unknown to the complainer – her funds were almost exhausted.
“I accept the complainer’s evidence that she did not intend for the accused to have unlimited access to her finances for his own purposes, that she was genuinely shocked and distressed when she discovered she had no money left and that the accused had not even paid the rent for a period.”
He said Potts had tried to portray Mrs Hargreaves as a ‘silly spendthrift’ acting against his wise advice and he also referred to her as a ‘domineering woman’.
But he added: “Neither of these conclusions could be in any way supported by listening to the complainer’s evidence and the evidence of those who knew her.”
He called for background reports and told Potts to return to court for sentence next month.
Ann was jubilant about the guilty verdict. She said: “I was devastated when I found out all my savings had gone. I didn’t know what to do.
“I withdrew really. I lived in my bedroom for months afterwards.
“It’s disgusting how he treated me. I was conned and feel both stupid and distraught. Now he can rot in Hell!”
She said she wanted to highlight to other women who might find themselves in her situation how easily she had been conned out of her savings by a man she trusted.
She said: “It’s so easy to trust people. He was a policeman. When you trust somebody you don’t sit there answering questions every day, you just get on with life.”
She added: “My husband Peter served 22 years in the Army. They were happy years. He got blown up when he was in Cyprus, then we came to Chester and we went to Kenya, Germany and Northern Ireland.
“He had set me up for retirement. He was getting me different pensions just to make sure that I was secure – and I was – before he died of cancer in 2002 aged 63.
“All he worried about was me. Then this man comes along and steals the lot of it.
“Now I’ve got to put it behind me. It’s been very depressing the last couple of months.”
Join our Facebook group Our Edinburgh to share images and news from and around the Capital