West Moor conman tricked elderly couple out of £110,000 and blew it on gambling and drugs – Chronicle Live

Lee Douglass betrayed the trust of his elderly victims and got them to hand over their savings by falsely claiming he was investing it for them
Sign up for free to get the latest North East news and updates delivered straight to your inbox
We have more newsletters
A cunning conman preyed on an elderly couple by getting them to hand over more than £100,000 which he pretended to invest but blew on gambling and drugs.
Silver-tongued fraudster Lee Douglass betrayed his friendship with the victims by persuading them to plough their life savings into schemes which he claimed would be profitable for them. But he was spinning them a web of lies, fobbing them off while wasting their hard-earned cash on his habits.
The male victim, 77, and his wife, went into the witness box at Newcastle Crown Court to outline how Douglass has ruined their retirement and left them devastated and embarrassed, as he was jailed for fraud.
Read more: Ashington drug dealer caught selling cocaine in Co-op car park
Douglass, of West Moor, North Tyneside, had known the couple since around 2008 as his wife worked with the female victim and the couples would socialise together. In 2014 he persuaded them to invest in a property development, which he falsely said he was he was going to complete and sell them for profit.
An agreement was made, on trust, but over time Douglass kept asking for more and more money, with promises he was close to the point where the victims would make money from their investment.
Douglass then claimed he was investing the profits in another scheme but by this point the victims were having to borrow from family members as the conman put more and more pressure on them.
The reality was that while Douglass had been in discussion with the owners of the original development, he had not paid any funds into that or the second project. Joe Culley, prosecuting, said: "But he maintained a significant gambling habit which he funded, in part, by money transferred to him by the victims."
Douglass pleaded guilty to fraud on the basis the total loss was £110,000 although the victims said they actually lost £171,000. He also admitted possessing a small amount of cocaine and cannabis when he was arrested.
The male victim went in the witness box to read his victim impact statement and said: "This is extremely embarrassing for me.
"Lee Douglass was very charming and plausible and he impressed me with his background as a chartered accountant and he worked for a major accountancy firm. He claimed to be my friend and someone with whom he wished to work on this investment opportunity. He has proved to be a very false friend indeed.
"The documents were all forged, the documents did not exist. We have not received one penny in compensation from him.
"My wife and I planned to obtain a home in Northern Ireland close to our family to spend our remaining years there. This now won't happen due to losing our life savings due to the fraud committed by Lee Douglass.
"I have deep regret for the people from whom I borrowed money and can't repay. We have suffered serious mental anguish. I'm embarrassed to say this but at one time I seriously considered committing suicide.
"Every day I feel deep shame and embarrassment for having been groomed for fraud by Lee Douglass. My retirement years have been totally ruined."
His wife added: "He spun an elaborate and complex web of lies and deceit, using a long list of outlandish excuses, from his personal hospitalisation to a lawyer dying, banks closing, funds going missing during bank transfers, bad weather, his mother suffering terminal cancer, his father being diagnosed with lung cancer and other excuses. As it turned out none of these things happened and the property investment didn't actually exist.
"It's no exaggeration to say he has ruined my life. He has stolen my retirement plans and peace of mind.
"The constant rollercoaster of empty promises that never came to fruition caused profound stress. This sentencing hearing is the 19th, I repeat 19th court event over a period of four years which has been a very long four years. Perhaps he was hoping if he deferred justice long enough he was hoping one or other of us would die.
"Lee Douglass is a cunning, manipulative, predatory fraudster who deserves a long custodial sentence."
Douglass, 32, of Hawks Edge, West Moor, pleaded guilty to fraud and possessing cocaine and cannabis when he was arrested.
Sentencing him, Recorder Caroline Sellars jailed him for three years and two months and told him: "I have no doubt you exploited the the trust they gave to you. The reality is the money went on gambling and drugs."
John Crawford, defending, said: "This was not a case where it was an utter fabrication from the outset. There were genuine attempts at commercial investments."
Detective Inspector Phil Thoburn of Northumbria Police, who led the investigation said: “This was a shocking and brazen fraud in which a hard-working and trusting couple lost their entire life savings.
“They trusted Douglass because of his credentials and believed he’d help them secure their retirement – but instead he continued to pocket large sums of money to feed his own drug and gambling addiction, and then continued to lie about it.
“He entered a guilty plea which he then tried to retract – causing his victims more anguish and stress – and I am pleased the courts have taken a firm stance against his behaviour.
“Fraud is a truly despicable crime which robs people of their trust, their confidence, and their hard-earned money, and we’ve heard about the toll this has taken on the victims.
“We’d also ask that anyone who has concerns about their finances, or a potential scam, seeks advice from a friend, from ActionFraud or from ourselves. If you need help it is there for you, please don’t turn a blind eye.”
Read more:


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *