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21 May 2013, 18:38
A conman from Darlington who fleeced more than £170,000 out of a string of women he met on a website has been jailed for seven years.
41 year old Jonathan Price posed as a super-wealthy businessman, telling his victims he was an ex-SAS man, a friend of the late, exiled Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky and that he had a home in Sandbanks, one of the most exclusive addresses in the country where football boss Harry Redknapp lives.
He turned their lives upside down and even married one victim, with whom he has had a child.
With "extraordinary callousness'' the Walter Mitty figure pretended he was dying and invented a friend who would email progress reports to one victim to throw her off the scent, the prosecution said.
After convincing them he had millions in offshore accounts, he managed to borrow many thousands from his victims and their ageing parents by claiming he had cash flow problems and that he would repay them once the issues were resolved.
But penniless career criminal Price would vanish after claiming to be terminally ill with a brain tumour and move in with another woman, who he had already been developing as a potential victim.
He met women online by using a "sugar daddies'' site which aimed to match beautiful women with wealthy men, Teesside Crown Court heard.
Price fleeced a florist in her 30s from the Bournemouth area after beginning a relationship with her, then moving in with her parents and conning £24,000 out of them for life-prolonging cancer treatments he pretended he needed.
Whether he thought he had bled her dry, or fearing he would be exposed, he moved on to prey upon a London-based 38-year-old retail manager.
Before long he tricked her into letting him use her credit cards and within months she was left bankrupt, with a loss of around £20,000.
Adrian Dent, prosecuting said:
"She has lost her flat, she had to declare herself bankrupt and she now lives with her mother."
While he was with her, Price had started to target a chemist from County Durham to whom he proposed after charming her online.
They planned a £96,000 wedding at Rockliffe Hall Hotel near Darlington, then claimed to have high blood pressure in a bid to cover the fact the venue would not honour the booking when no payment was made.
Instead they married at Harrogate Register Office in front of just four people.
Though they picked out an expensive engagement ring from Graff's jewellers in Bond Street which needed altering, no payment was made and she ended up with a totally different ring, probably fake.
He defrauded her out of £72,000 and her parents out of a further £7,000.
She had his baby last year.
They have since divorced. Businesses lost around £50,000 from his offending.
He previously pleaded guilty to 14 frauds and one count of theft, and it was said he would plan his next con while in jail for his last.
Price, whose latest address was near Darlington, would produce false bank statements to convince the women and their families he had a fortune abroad.
That would reassure them he was a safe bet for a short loan. He would then use that money to wine and dine his next victim, convincing them of his super-rich status.
He claimed to have a white Rolls Royce, to have been a Paratrooper and even in the SAS, the court heard.
His deceptions also included a businessman he tricked into becoming his personal financial manager, an estate agents and a boat dealer.
A Leeds garage was tricked into loaning him a car when he placed orders for a £70,000 Audi A8 with extras and a £44,000 A5 for his wife, after showing a sales rep he had made money transfers on a laptop.
Price also made a series of offers for exclusive homes including a £5 million property near Harrogate.
His name now appears on the waltermittyhunt.com site which claims to publicise people who falsely claim to have been in the services.
After the case, Detective Constable Vikki Cooper said:
"This case has involved a protracted investigation and now it has concluded I hope Jonathan Price's victims are able to gain closure and move on with their lives in the knowledge he has received a prison sentence befitting his crimes.''