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Conman sentenced for defrauding public out of more than £12,000

Serial conman Matthew Burton has been jailed yet again - this time for fleecing more than £12,500 out of a disabled elderly man, a woman he met on a dating website - and his own parents!

Burton, 40, of Agate Drive, Bishops Cleeve, nr Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, claimed he needed the money because he was at the mercy of corrupt police officers demanding payments from him.

Gloucester Crown Court heard on Wednesday (July 21) that, Burton resumed his lies and deceit after being jailed for 18 months last February (2020) for carrying out a series of frauds to fund his gambling and cocaine addictions.

Judge Michael Cullum pointed out at Wednesday's hearing that within a short time after Burton was released from custody he 'reverted to type' - despite obtaining certificates in prison showing that he had successfully combated his drug and gambling addictions.

Prosecutor Ian Fenny said Burton's first victim after his release was Cherise Nichols, a businesswoman whom he met on an internet dating site.

"She states that she got to know Burton after he had cultivated a relationship with her," said Mr Fenny.

"Ms Nichols believed that she was now Burton's girlfriend. But after a while he began to ask her to send him money so he could purchase a pair of designer trainers.

"Despite being in her own perilous financial position she still invested £250 in the shoes and £330 in a car that was to be sold on.

"When the trainers failed to turn up and Burton became evasive she began to 'smell a rat' and suspected him of being a fraudster."

The court was told that second victim was Nigel Smith, 68, a disabled neighbour of his parents, who Burton conned out of £3,270.

"Mr Smith was severely disabled and therefore vulnerable. He needed a specialist car to get around in.

"Burton, who had previously worked for a Ford car dealership, told Mr Smith he knew where he could get such a vehicle. Mr Smith duly handed over the cash. The vehicle never materialised, and Mr Smith never saw his money again."

The next victim was Mr Gough, a man Burton had known previously and had promised he would get hold of a car for him.

Mr Gough handed just over £1,000 to Burton, said the prosecutor. When the car never materialised Mr Gough tried to make contact with Burton and only then did he discover his fraudulent past.

Burton told Mr Gough that they delay had been caused by him being hospitalised with Covid-19. The car never materialised and the money was never returned to him.

The court was then told that Burton's parents were also fleeced out of £7,400.

"Burton duped them into believing he was at the mercy of several corrupt police officers - names of which he had obtained from his own dealings with Gloucester Constabulary, but who were innocent of his allegations," said Mr Fenny.

"Burton told his parents he needed the money to settle his debts with these officers, who he said were threatening to arrest him if he didn't cough up.

"They handed over £2,460 to their son. But that didn't suffice as he then conducted another con on them. This time he committed another fraud when they wanted to upgrade their caravan and were keen to find a better one.

"The parents handed over £4,000 to complete that transaction, but the caravan he said he would get never materialised and was deemed to be entirely fictitious.

"Burton's parents were aware of their son's fraudulent past. They were also aware that he regularly got himself into debt due to drugs and gambling. But out of loyalty to their son they felt duty bound to pay him the money."

Mandla Ndlovu, defending, said: "While in prison he addressed his twin addictions, cocaine and gambling. He initially signed up with a number of organisations to help him with these issues when he was released from prison.

"He also gained employment on two occasions, but when his previous fraudulent activities came to light his contracts were terminated.

"After the second occasion Burton was left feeling distraught and due to this setback he fell back into his old ways.

"He has been remanded in custody for these matters. He has since gained a responsible role within the prison by mentoring other inmates. He earns a small wage for this and hopes to save it up to compensate his victims.

"He hopes that he will now be able to break the cycle of offending when he is eventually released from prison."

Burton pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to four counts of fraud by misrepresentation on each of his four victims

Judge Cullum told Burton: "You show little sign of slowing down your fraudulent career. It was while you were on parole for the last part of your 18-month sentence for similar offending, that you reverted to your old fraudulent ways.

"The certificate you proudly possess for completion of motivation and change in prison seems to have had little impact when things didn't go your way. When you were released back into the community and reverted to type.

"You embarked on a false relationship with a vulnerable woman by fleecing her and got two jobs in the motoring industry without revealing your fraudulent past to your new employers.

"Your offending continued by conning your parents out of large sums of money and defrauding an elderly disabled neighbour along with another man who you dishonestly tried to sell a non-existent vehicle.

"Your fraudulent activity amounts to around £12,500 on this occasion. You targeted your victims according to their vulnerability and this began with the relationship with a woman in which you were gaslighting her.

"The common factor in all these fraudulent activities was the amount of planning, involving the use of bank accounts and false documentation over your bizarre claim of corrupt police officers.

"Your dishonesty was sophisticated. There has been significant impact on all your victims and these offences were committed while on parole. You are by career a very dishonest person."

The judge jailed Burton for a total of two years and eight months.

Burton was warned that that he would be facing a Proceeds of Crime hearing on December 3 when the court will certify the amount he benefited from crime and order the seizure of any assets he may have up to that value.

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