A BUSINESSMAN who ripped off vulnerable pensioners by selling them dodgy wills has been jailed for eight months.
Samuel Eaton targeted his victims to mis-sell them wills and trust deeds while trading as The Pensioners’ Association and The Senior Citizens’ Advice Centre based on an industrial estate in Wigan.
It is clear that each of his victims believed that his operations were charitable, rather than commercial venturesDavid Birrell - prosecuting
He produced and used literature giving the impression he was affiliated to Age UK, Macmillan Cancer Support and Sense, a charity for deaf and blind people.
“It is clear that each of his victims believed that his operations were charitable, rather than commercial ventures,” said David Birrell, prosecuting.
Following telephone “cold calls” Eaton called at their homes and after they handed over hundreds of pounds he drew up wills and trust deeds for them.
But when examined by an expert they were found to be basically useless as they were poorly drafted and contained errors, inconsistencies and had ambiguous and contradictory clauses.
“There was a lack of professional diligence on the part of the defendant,” said Mr Birrell.
Liverpool Crown Court heard that ironically a man who was present with his parents to “protect them from sharks” was also duped by Eaton and handed over £1,100.
Eaton, 66, was yesterday jailed for eight months and ordered to pay £3,950 in compensation and costs.
“In my view these are serious offences involving a number of different victims, some particularly vulnerable,” said Judge Alan Conrad, QC.
“I accept to a degree you may have had authority to use one or two of the logos but I don’t accept that the owners of those logos would have approved of the way in which they were used.”
Judge Conrad told Eaton that he had carefully targeted his victims to mis-sell legal documents, as demonstrated by the names of his businesses.
Eaton, of Towndam Lane, Spalding, Lincolnshire, but who lives in a caravan in Hastings, pleaded guilty to four offences of engaging in a commercial practice which contrived the requirement of due diligence.
Mr Birrell said that the first victim was a 71-year-old woman who received a cold telephone call and agreed to Eaton visiting her home in Widnes believing the caller was from Age UK.
He arrived in March 2013 and produced a business card with the Macmillan Cancer Support logo and played them a DVD showing a BBC documentary relating to wills and trusts and she and her husband “were taken in by this.”
He advised them about wills and powers of attorney and although they had wills he said he would give them new ones as part of a special offer. She handed over a total of £1,100 to draft the documents but later noticed a number of mistakes in them.
The second victim, aged 85, received a cold call from the Pensioners’ Association within days of his wife’s funeral and believing he was dealing with a charity agreed to a visit to his home in Orford, Warrington.
Eaton gave him misleading information about how the local authority could sell his home to pay for care home fees and quoted him a £120 fee to prepare a trust deed, rising to £1,200 if the deed was used.
When he returned nine days later the pensioner became suspicious when asked for the balance of the £1,200 and during a heated row Eaton said he had over 900 clients and claimed he had slandered him.
He repeated this in a letter two days later on May 20, 2013 and threatened him with legal action. “It amounted to scare tactics sent to a man who was particularly vulnerable,” said Mr Birrell.
In July he contacted an 87-year-old woman, a hospital outpatient, under the guise of the Pensioners’ Association and repeated his misleading assertion she might lose her home if she went into care. Believing she was dealing with a charity she agreed to him visiting her at her Runcorn home.
He produced Age UK literature and said while he was not a solicitor he had solicitors working for him. Ironically not only was she taken in but so was her 63-year-old son, who was there to ensure his parents were not ripped off.
He and his mum both handed over £1,100 for a trust deed and will, which the expert doubted would have any legal effect. It was after the son contacted the local authority that Eaton was arrested.
Trevor Parry-Jones, defending, said that Eaton, who suffers from diabetes, has no previous convictions and his business “started as a legitimate concern”.
“He had a number of places of employment in relation to solicitors and never fallen could of illegitimate practices,” said Mr Parry-Jones.
He became aware that some people were charging £3,000 plus for advice about wills, trusts and power of attorney.
He added: “His error was believing he could replicate that business and professional requirement but setting up his own business.”
Mr Parry-Jones said “his intention was to assist people. He did not set out to defraud.” The person who had drafted the faulty documents for him was a trainee solicitor, he added.
“The defendant accepts he was totally misguided and ill-prepared and should not have done what he did.”
Eaton’s two brothers were in the public gallery and Mr Parry-Jones said that they came from an exemplary family and they intend to ensure that the victims are recompensed as Eaton is unable to do so.