A judge told a fraudster who posed as a wedding company boss while ripping off a hotel in south Cumbria: “You’re dishonest to the very core.”
At Carlisle Crown Court, 59-year-old Ian Cullen was jailed for four years and two months after he pleaded guilty to the latest in a long line of frauds, which involved him using another person’s bank cards to pay for hotel accommodation at Stonecross Manor in Milnthorpe Road, Kendal.
He admitted four fraud charges.
Megan Tollitt, prosecuting, described how the defendant – whose 154-offence criminal record includes 88 previous frauds – checked into the hotel in November last year under the name of another man.
As he checked out the following day, he settled the £240 bill using a bank card belonging to yet another person.
The card’s owner had no knowledge of the transaction.
Cullen also used a card belonging to the man whose name he used at the hotel – a coach driver – to pay for a rental car from Enterprise Rent-A-Car in Kendal.
The two other frauds admitted by the defendant involved him taking advantage financially of a woman who ran the Bickleigh Castle wedding venue in Devon.
The defendant stayed there on November 29 last year, the court heard.
The owner took a call from Cullen, who gave a false name and claimed to be the chief executive of another wedding firm.
“He said he’d won a large amount of money on the lottery and the following day, while still at the property, he said he had money to invest in property she was looking to buy,” said Miss Tollitt.
The business owner gave him her sort code and bank account number so investment money could be transferred.
Cullen also offered the woman’s 19-year-old daughter a job as a ‘wedding coordinator’, said Miss Tollitt.
“He said he’d pay for her university fees,” said the barrister.
On December 4, the woman travelled to Windermere to meet Cullen, who claimed he owned a property in the town.
But the woman then discovered her account had been subject to ‘unauthorised’ transactions and became suspicious. This included money spent on car hire.
In her victim personal statement, the woman said what happened had an emotional impact, leaving her embarrassed and less trusting of people.
Sharon Watson, for Cullen, said the father-of-three suffered serious health problems.
The conditions in the prison where he is being held were ‘inhumane’, she said.
“He’s had two heart attacks, two strokes and he was hospitalised at the Royal Preston Hospital awaiting a knee operation,” she said.
“The conditions in prison are to him terrible.
“He’s in his cell for 23 out of every 24 hours.
“It can only have a further detrimental effect on his health problems.
“He’s said that he knows this has got to stop.”
The lawyer quoted Cullen as saying: “It’s just got to stop, given my health problems. I simply can’t continue to cope with long periods in custody.”
Mrs Watson said the defendant claimed to have the funds to compensate the victims.
Jailing Cullen for 50 months, Recorder Ciaran Rankin told the defendant, who has no fixed abode, that his victim suffered anxiety, distress and sleepless nights.
“You’re a long-term and persistent professional fraudster,” said the judge.
“You’re dishonest to the very core, Mr Cullen.”
The judge set a Proceeds of Crime hearing – likely to last one hour and designed to claw back the defendant’s criminal profits – for August 20.