Imprisoned: The silver charlatan who befriended his victims and then defrauded them
Payback time for Peter Holbrook, the affable 75-year-old con man
Old people trusted the savings of the silver-haired, bespectacled Yorkshireman, Peter Holbrook, not least because he was their age – older in some cases.
But unbeknownst to them, the 75-year-old was stealing their money to fund his gambling habit.
He was sentenced this week to five years and three months in prison after pleading guilty to defrauding nine victims out of a total of nearly £850,000 between 2011 and 2021.
Bradford Crown Court heard he took advantage of recently bereaved people, offering a will writing and investment service, despite having no relevant qualifications.
Angus MacDonald, prosecuting on behalf of West Yorkshire Trading Standards, said: “He would befriend the victims before offering to deal with their wills.”
One victim was Joan Dobson who lost £384,303 to the scammer. She needed financial help when her husband Herbert died in 2020 and now she has passed away.
In her victim impact statement, she described how learning the truth about the counselor she had trusted for years was “shocking and devastating”.
Her daughter described how her mother blamed herself for the fraud, tragically describing herself as a “stupid old woman”.
In another case, Holbrook prepared the will for Barbara Middleton and her husband, Leslie, and when he died in 2017, the defendant met with the grieving widow and her two daughters to organize the will.
He told Barbara that she was now a “very wealthy woman” and that he would invest the money. They trusted him.
But he lost the gambling money or used it to pay compensation to other victims.
In her victim impact statement, Barbara stated that she would never get over what the defendant did, and now had no inheritance to pass on to her children.
Recorder Richard Thayne KC told Holbrooke it had “taken away financial security from people at a time when they were vulnerable and needed it most”.
“Hard-earned money that parents had saved to give to their children when they died was taken away. Retirement plans were canceled and homes were sold to pay for care that should have come from people’s savings.”
In a mitigation of his sentence, the court heard that the fraudster, from Oxenhope, West Yorks, admitted in a written statement: “My actions are disgraceful and wrong, and what is worse is that I betrayed these kind and gentle people.”
After the case, Linda Davies, West Yorkshire Trading Standards Director, said: “This was a massive fraud, with many victims losing their savings to someone they trusted with their money.
“Holbrook built relationships with them to enable him to persuade them to let him manage their finances, all the while using their money to fund his gambling habit.
“Today’s sentence reflects the seriousness of his offense and its impact on the victims. His actions have caused enormous stress and anxiety to these victims and their families, who have lost significant amounts of their life savings.”