An estate agent who defrauded an elderly woman out of £160,000 and then faked terminal cancer in a bid for sympathy has been jailed.
Between May 2018 and March 2019, Elizabeth Smith, from Winchelsea Beach, East Sussex, preyed on Joan Cannon, 80, who approached her wanting to buy a chalet house near the sea for her and her autistic son to live in, a court heard.
However, the money was instead pocketed by Smith, who spent the cash on a luxury Mercedes and on holiday in Dubai, as well as paying off debts.
When police finally caught up with her, Smith, 53, claimed to have terminal stomach cancer in “an attempt to get sympathy”, Hove Crown Court was told.
Smith, who pleaded guilty to fraud in August, has now been jailed for five years and 14 days.
Her elderly victim died before she could see the fraudster sentenced for her crimes.
But in a statement written some time earlier and read out in court by the prosecution on Wednesday, she spoke of the devastating impact of Smith’s deception.
She said: “I had no reason to doubt what Smith was asking me to do.
“However when I found out that I had actually been defrauded by Smith, my entire world came crashing down... we are now facing being homeless.”
Prosecutor Piers Reed explained to the court how Smith had convinced Ms Cannon to transfer money into her Santander account.
The court heard that instead of putting the money towards the property, Smith spent £13,950 on a Mercedes and withdrew cash while on holiday in Dubai.
Much of the roughly £160,000 defrauded from Ms Cannon had not been recovered, the court heard.
Defence barrister James Hay said Smith was “mortified” at her actions and was “deeply sorry”.
The court heard she had struggled with anxiety and alcohol but had a history of positive good character helping other people.
Sentencing Smith, Judge Martin Huseyin said her actions were “utterly despicable”.
He added: “The claim of having a mortal disease turns out to be untrue and an attempt to get sympathy … a willingness not to tell the truth in order to avoid consequences.”
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