A Lancaster hair salon boss has told how he became a victim of a serial con-artist and gambling addict who scammed 18 victims in a half-million pound fraud spree.
Neil Casson was jailed for five years and four months at Preston Crown Court after admitting 23 counts of fraud.
One of his victims, businessman Graham Cass, has told how Casson befriended him then conned him out of £13,000 by asking for money to import BMWs.
Casson, 47, made himself out to be a successful gambler who made his fortune through a combination of Lottery wins and money making schemes.
He rubbed shoulders with some of Lancashire’s wealthiest people, used fancy cars to convince others of his wealth, and claimed he would invest their cash in schemes to make them a profit.
But his victims quickly learned it was all a facade as Casson banked, gambled or spent the money.
He also conned potential love interests, earning himself the nickname ‘Casanova Casson’.
A woman who sold her house for him was left almost penniless while others gave him their life savings.
Casson, from Galgate, even claimed had won £1.24m on the Lottery to obtain a financial agreement to buy a £150,000 Ferrari 458 Spider.
But he had actually won just £25 on a weekly lottery organised by his local cricket club.
Mr Cass, 46, lent Casson £12,000 in 2008 to import two BMWs into the UK, but never saw his money again.
“He befriended me,” said Mr Cass, who runs the Jo and Cass hair and beauty chain.
“I knew him from the old days, from around the town. He used to be a customer at our Lancaster salon.
“One day he approached me and said: “How are things?” He was spouting lots of names of wealthy people, local names who I know of, making out he did business with them.
“One day I was at my house and a fancy car turned up at the gate. I opened it and in drove Neil.
“I remarked on his car and he said he was doing well. He said he did a lot of business and made a lot of money. It was very subtle and very tactful, planting the seed.
“In May last year my shop staff rang me saying he was asking for my number and was really insistent, saying he needed to talk.
“I don’t know why, I agreed. He rang me and said, ‘I’ve got a mega deal’.
“I’ll be honest, I’m greedy – I think that’s where he gets everyone.
“He said he was importing a container of BMWs but was short. He asked me to lend him the money in return for a reward, to which I told him I needed invoices and the like.
“I wired the money to his bank. He said he cars would be delivered on Monday and he was selling them on Thursday.
“A friend of mine then said to me ‘You’ve not given him any money have you? You’ve lost your money, I know loads of people he’s ripped off’.
“That was that - the money had gone. Since then people have contacted me saying they’ve had the same experience. It’s massive how many people it’s touched.”
Speaking after the sentencing, Sgt Steve Craig said: “Neil Casson is a despicable con man who wove a web of deceit, targeting women and people he knew would provide him with cash to fritter away on his gambling addiction. He has at no point shown any remorse for what he has done or empathy for his victims.
“One common theme amongst most of those affected is that Casson’s actions haven’t just left them financially affected but they say that they are embarrassed and humiliated that they were taken in by him. That is how good a liar he was. I hope that this sentencing will provide them with closure.”
Speaking after today’s result, Sgt Steve Craig said: “Neil Casson is a despicable con man who wove a web of deceit, targeting women and people he knew would provide him with cash to fritter away on his gambling addiction. He has at no point shown any remorse for what he has done or empathy for his victims.
“One common theme amongst most of those affected is that Casson’s actions haven’t just left them financially affected but they say that they are embarrassed and humiliated that they were taken in by him. That is how good of a liar he was.”
The frauds Casson admits:
Money laundering of £567,502 by banking, gambling and lifestyle spending
Taking sums of £182,000, £92,000, £23,000, £10,000, £18,000, £7,000, £10,000 and £12,000 from male victims and claiming the money would be invested in different schemes
Convincing women to hand over sums of money, including £25,000, £24,000, £15,000, £20,000, £23,000 and £33,000, claiming they would be investing in profit-making schemes
Dishonestly obtaining £19,830 from a victim
Claiming one victim would receive a Land Rover Discovery in return for £6,500
Fraud by false representation to a financial firm
Fraud by false representation to Ferrari Finance Ltd