73-year-old conman who stayed for a year at Chippenham guest house ran up a bill of £10k, court told (From This Is Wiltshire)
73-year-old conman who stayed for a year at Chippenham guest house ran up a bill of £10k, court told
11:22am Tuesday 8th October 2013 in Latest News
Pensioner Michael Sweeting ran up a bill of £10,780 at a guest house in Chippenham after he made excuses for not paying for a year, a court heard.
The 73-year-old was found guilty of fraud at Swindon Crown Court yesterday after it heard how he passed dud cheques and made up reasons for not paying at the New Road Guest House, despite collecting £1,400 a month pension.
Now he has been told to cough up the money, even though it will take him four-and-a-half years.
He set up home in a room at the guest house, run by Sue and Lawrie Abercrombie, with the first few weeks settled in advance by his daughter.
But the court was told he preyed on the good nature of the owners by handing over excuses instead of payment.
As a result the owners were put under considerable financial pressure
Hannah Squire, prosecuting, told the court Sweeting and his daughter Lucy turned up early last year and arranged for him to stay there.
She handed the owners Sue and Lawrie Abercrombie payment for a month's lodgings in advance, but it was the last payment the couple saw.
During the following year Sweeting gave excuse after excuse, telling them he would give them a cheque soon.
On one occasion he handed them one which bounced and other times he warned them not to cash it as he was not in funds.
But all the while the local shopkeeper told them he was coming in and buying himself a bottle of wine every day.
"Mrs Abercrombie showed the patience of a saint and continually allowed Mr Sweeting to stay there, providing him with bed and breakfast," Miss Squire said.
"Throughout it she was becoming increasingly concerned about the services she was offering Mr Sweeting.
"It also became apparent he must be in some funds as he was living quite well. They spoke to people in the local shop who said he came in daily and bought a bottle of wine a day. Nothing was being paid on the bill but he was indulging himself."
She said they tried civil recovery, speaking to solicitors and serving notices on him saying what he owed, but he still failed to pay up - and kept living there.
In February this year he finally left, having not paid the bill, so the police were called in as she feared he would try and fleece another hotel.
Sweeting, now living with a friend on Foxcombe Road, Lower Weston, Bath, pleaded guilty to one charge of fraud.
Mike Pulsford, defending, said when he was questioned by the police his client had said he was hoping something would come up to pay the bill, like winning the lottery.
"It seems he completely buried his head in the sand," he said.
About five years ago he said his wife died and he then failed to pay the rent on their home in Malmesbury.
As a result he said he was evicted and paying a county court judgement at £65 a week and has a £2,500 overdraft.
Passing sentence Judge Douglas Field said "You took advantage of the good nature of Mr and Mrs Abercrombie and you moved in to the guest house and they were friendly towards you.
"You encouraged that friendship. They became fond of you and did you favours and what did you do in return? You failed to pay the account for your accommodation for nearly a year.
"The result of this has put them under great financial pressure. They were in business in a small way, you have let them down very badly. This is a serious matter."
He imposed a four month jail term suspended for two years and told him to pay back the money at £200 a month.
After the hearing Mrs Abercrombie declined to discuss the matter.