Conman on the run after psychic scam

The Argus/June 15, 2009

A fraudster is on the run after failing to turn up to be sentenced for duping a man out of thousands of pounds in a psychic medium scam.

John Hamilton, 51, of Woodland Vale Road, St Leonards, was sentenced to two and a half years in prison and ordered to pay £4,500 in compensation for his part in the con.

Warrants have been issued for him and his accomplice, George Lavery, after they failed to turn up in court before they were sentenced.

Media reports suggest the pair may have fled to Gibraltar.

Lavery, formerly of Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, was working as a psychic medium when he was contacted by a man who had split up with his girlfriend and wanted to contact her.

The 42-year-old, also known as Simon Lavery, told the victim that he could help him rebuild the relationship.

The man bought a phone to pass to her so she could contact him, which Lavery and Hamilton used to pretend to be the woman by sending a series of text messages.

Between October 1, 2007, and June 2, 2008, the pair persuaded him to part with thousands of pounds to buy an engagement ring and arrange a wedding between the man and his ex-girlfriend.

The victim, a restaurateur from Watford, eventually realised he had been defrauded when he spotted the mobile phone he had bought at Lavery’s house. He then contacted his ex-girlfriend on her usual mobile number but she knew nothing about the wedding.

Lavery and Hamilton were found guilty in their absence at St Albans Crown Court after pleading not guilty at an earlier hearing to fraud by false representation.

Detective Constable Phil Freebrey, of Hertfordshire Constabulary, said: "These are robust and positive sentences for a cruel and callous crime against a man who was at a vulnerable time in his life.

"It is unusual for offenders to be sentenced in their absence. We would strongly urge anyone who has seen either of these men to get in touch so they can serve their sentences and pay the compensation.

"It is possible they could be in the London or Sussex areas, where they come from, Gibraltar, where Lavery was due to hold an event on June 9, or the Costa del Sol, where there was an event on June 11.

"I am also keen to hear from anyone who thinks they may have been defrauded by these two men.

"We would ask them to get in touch so we can investigate."

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