A mother and daughter who scammed an elderly man who was “struggling with his pension” out of more than £17,000 by inventing false emergencies have been spared prison.
Both Shannon Stephanie Bellas (26), who fraudulently obtained £11,317, and Amanda Joan Louis (53), who took £6,027, were handed 240 hours' community service each in the Royal Court on Friday morning.
The pair were only spared jail to enable them to work to pay back what they had taken in what was described as a "cruel and nasty exploitation", which at one point saw the elderly gentleman sell
The Royal Court heard that Louis first met the victim more than 20 years ago through auctions while he lived in Jersey. While the man moved to England around four years ago, he stayed in touch with the defendants.
Over time, they began to request money.
Crown Advocate Simon Crowder told the court that, while the mother and daughter "were not necessarily working together to defraud the victim, they used the same tactics" and were aware of each others' criminal activities.
Pictured: Shannon Stephanie Bellas and Amanda Joan Louis were sentenced in the Royal Court on Friday morning.
He explained that the pair would "make up fake emergencies and reasons for the urgent requests", continuing to do so even when the victim told them he was "struggling with his pension.
Bellas received 103 payments in total, having told the victim she needed the money for football trials, rent, medical expenses for her and her family and household expenses, amongst other elaborate stories.
On one occasion, she requested money for rent, providing details that were purportedly for her landlord – but in fact for a different bank account in her own name.
"Each story was a lie," the Crown Advocate said, "but this did not stop Bellas from continuing to ask the victim for the money. On one occasion she sent the Victim 22 messages in relation to one request for £80."
Pictured: Bellas gave bank details she claimed were for her landlord to cover rent - but the account was really hers.
Meanwhile, her mother received 43 payments.
Among Louis' lies were that she needed the money a new business, bills, flights and rent. When the victim didn't respond quickly, she would follow up, sometimes less than 10 minutes later.
She would also draft contracts between her and the elderly man, certifying that she would repay the money she owed.
The fraud began to unravel when the man visited Jersey in May 2019 and noticed that the alleged new business – for which he had provided hundreds of pounds in funding – was boarded up.
Louis lied and said that the shop needed repairs and was only temporarily closed – but the truth was that she had never started the business.
Advocate Crowder continued: "In October 2019, he even resorted to selling his phone so he could transfer more money to her. Louis showed no remorse for the Victim's situation. She always promised to pay the Victim back, but never did.
"The victim trusted the Defendants and would not have transferred the money had he known it would not be paid back. He viewed them as friends and as such believed the reasons they gave. He did not think, at the time, that he was the Victim of a cruel and nasty financial exploitation."
When Bellas was interviewed about the fraud in August 2021 by Police, she admitted that she had "taken advantage" of the man, but said she had "intended to pay him back" - even though, up to that point, no money had been repaid.
Louis, meanwhile, denied being dishonest in her first interview in September 2021, and attempted to pin the blame on her daughter by claiming that Bellas had used her phone to send some of the messages to the victim.
In a second interview, in which bank accounts were put to her, she admitted that she had lied, but maintained that "not all transactions were dishonest."
Pictured: Louis tried to suggest to police that her daughter had sent messages from her phone, before admitting the truth in a second interview.
Handed down by Commissioner Julian Clyde-Smith, who was sitting with Jurats Collette Anne Crill and Robert Anthony Christensen MBE, Bellas' community service sentence was equivalent to 18 months' imprisonment. She was told she must also compensate the victim for what she had taken in payments of £400 per month - if not, she could face six months' jail.
Louis was given the same amount of community service, and was ordered to repay the victim £5,677 in instalments of £350 per month, with a default sentence of four months' imprisonment.
"This case demonstrates the lengths that fraudsters will go to in order to obtain money for their own gain, no matter who the victim," Detective Inspector Aiden Quenault of the Joint Financial Crime Unit said after the sentencing.
"It serves as a reminder that although the defendants in this case targeted a specific individual, everyone in the community needs to be vigilant to the potential of being the victim of fraud."
He added: "The details of who, why and when should always be checked where money is being sent, loaned or transferred to anyone else. Further information on frauds and scams can be found on the States of Jersey Police website."
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