Home West London Fraudster swindled vulnerable West London pensioners of £267k antiques before flogging them...

Fraudster swindled vulnerable West London pensioners of £267k antiques before flogging them on eBay

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A scammer who swindled elderly pensioners of their prized possessions by pretending to be an expert antiques dealer has been jailed. Peter Taylor, 61, had toured homes in Chelsea and Fulham and had earned the trust of his vulnerable clients before flogging their antiques, including a Francis Bacon painting, on eBay.

The convicted fraudster had promoted himself with flyers and business cards with the trading names ‘Chelsea Auction House’ and ‘Muck2Brass’, and would offer valuations for valuable items. Victims had handed over their possessions, only for Taylor to “keep them as his own” or to sell them online for drastically cheaper prices.

Sentencing him on Thursday (March 31), Judge Sarah Paneth said he had “exploited the vulnerabilities” of his many victims for his own financial gain. After being convicted on 11 counts of fraud, he was jailed for five and a half years for his crimes.

READ MORE: Wandsworth ‘kidnapping’: Met Police launch manhunt after victim left with neck injuries

Shahrzad Shenavar has lost over £13,000 of valuables to the rogue dealer

Speaking to MyLondon, one of his victims, Shahrzad Shenavar, said that the five year sentence was “too lenient” and that he had told “too many lies” since the deception began in 2016. She had first encountered Taylor, who also went by his former name of Peter Tillett, in June 2018 after she obtained a card advertising his services.

The court heard that between March 2016 and February 2019, he succeeded in swindling away treasures to the value of £267,000, many of which have never been recovered. In what was described as a “similar pattern”, he would offer to value artefacts at his workplace and would tell his victims that he would send over an inventory and valuations.

As time went by, he would become “evasive” and would ignore emails and phone calls. Several of his victims had attended the addresses listed on his two websites, only to discover that he no longer lived or worked there. In several cases, he would provide no explanation to the whereabouts of their property, which would often be listed for sale at different prices to their true value.

Judge Paneth summarised: “I am sure that in a pattern that became familiar – you would treat those items as your own, not by mistake or because you were busy, you never intended on providing a valuation at all.”

In the case of Caroline Shamash, she had handed over furniture, lighting and glassware to Taylor and had been under the impression he would provide her with a full valuation and inventory. He sold several of her items on his Muck2Brass website and then became “impossible to find”, refusing to respond to her email requests throughout 2016 and 2017.

Victim left with ’50p in her pocket’

He provided no paperwork and during his evidence before the jury, told them he “could not be bothered to respond”. Ms Shamash was left with “50p in her pocket” and despite her confronting him and Taylor promising to pay, she was left penniless from the loss of her valuables.

“What you did was to take those items and treat them as your own. You abused the goodwill and trust of good and trusting people,” Ms Paneth said.

In another heartbreaking case, Helen Ford contacted Taylor to assist with the clearance of her mum’s flat, who had recently died from Alzheimer’s disease. After he took several items from her childhood home, she began to see them being sold on the Muck2Brass website and refused to acknowledge her claims for compensation.

In an emotional victim impact statement, Ms Ford said that one of her mum’s dying wishes had been that the proceeds from the sale of her valuables be donated to charity. She said: “I’ve already lost my mother twice, one to Alzeihmer’s and another to death. His actions had caused that for a third time. I’ve not slept properly since we’ve realised he never intended to sell those items on our behalf.

“I am constantly thinking about how I have let my mother down, it was one of the last things she entrusted to me and that is something I will not recover from. I stood and watched my childhood being taken from that house thinking about the good I was doing with the proceeds.”

Ms Ford had spent hours trawling through 15,000 images in order to identify the items he had taken from her mother’s home. When she confronted Taylor, he forced her to prove that the items belonged to her and her family.

Speaking to MyLondon, Ms Shenavar said she had contacted Taylor in June 2018 after seeing his business card, and expressed her wish to sell a few items. She said she had begun collecting antiques for 30 to 40 years and had a number of prized possessions within her collection.

She showed us her camera roll, where she had taken several pictures of her valuables, including one with Taylor’s hand in the background. “I knew immediately something was suspicious. He became aggressive when I started taking photographs and told me ‘you’re the only one taking photos’. As soon as he left, I rang him before he’d even gotten to the end of my street and asked him to bring back my items. He didn’t bring them back,” she told MyLondon.

Her son was suspicious and attempted to contact Chelsea Auction House but realised they were no longer in business. Becoming increasingly concerned, he contacted another auction house on King’s Road and asked them if they were aware of a dealer named Peter Tillett.

He told us: “They immediately said ‘Phone the police now’. They explained that he never paid anyone and took valuable items and sold them online – he had a reputation, he was known.”

£1,050 wine glasses flogged on eBay for £40

In one example, she had spent £1,050 on a valuable cranberry-coloured set of wine glasses, which were over 200 years old. She later found them being flogged on eBay for £40 and has been unable to trace a number of her items, including a Victorian solid silver tea set.

Antiques dealer Maria Gabriela Ponce de Leao was also swindled, after giving 140 items to Taylor to the value of £40,000, the majority of which has never been recovered. Judge Paleth summarised: “She says that in effect she feels as if she’s a homeless person living on her daughter’s goodwill and she has stopped dealing with antiques, she’s lost all confidence in people and antique dealers.”

Other victims included Lady Patsy Alliott, 90, TV personality Steven Morris and renowned chef Eric Payet. In various impact statements, they spoke of the “panic attacks, despair and hopelessness” the incidents had caused them, with one victim, Gill Miller, passing away before Taylor could be brought to justice.

Stephen Morris, who lost an estimated £75,000 to Taylor, told the courts: “He had the audacity to make a statement to the police that I was threatening him. I am a 65 year old pensioner who has never even had a parking ticket, for goodness sakes. Peter Tillot knows how to work the system.

“Psychologically my trust in everyone I come into contact with has been diminished. Previously I was able to conduct my business affairs with the belief that basically everyone would be honest and the system would be there to protect me.”

Taylor, of Twickenham, had previously been jailed for four years in 2012 for a £3million VAT scam and had previously featured on the Channel 5 programme Cowboy Builders. He also had a previous conviction from 1999 after obtaining property through deception and had received a sentence of unpaid community work.

Judge Paneth told the fraudster: “All the evidence demonstrates that everything you’ve done was for your own profit.” She summarised that he had lied to his victims by selling their items with “pitiful low valuations” in his belief that he had found a “niche” within the market.

Speaking of his past work with the Samaritans charity, she said: “I think you have an immense capacity to empathise people and the capacity to use that in a positive way but unfortunately you were motivated by greed and arrogance and used that in a negative way – because people did trust you. You have returned some goods and made payments to people, albeit after the police were involved on each occasion.”

He was sentenced to five years and five months in prison and a confiscation order is in place. Speaking to MyLondon of the sentencing, Ms Shenavar said: “Five years is too lenient, I thought the judge was too nice on him. He has told so many lies, five years was not enough, he will be out soon.”

She told us that she was now focused on getting compensation for the £13,000 lost, although she states the actual sum was far higher. “He was only prosecuted for the items where there were receipts – one of the rugs he took wasn’t included, as well as other antiques.”

Holly Evans pic

I’m MyLondon’s Court and Crime Reporter, covering the latest trials, inquests and tribunals across the capital. I’m currently based in South West London.

Three cases I’ve reported on recently include:

Got a story? You can email me at [email protected] or DM me on Twitter @holly_evans98

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https://www.mylondon.news/news/west-london-news/fraudster-swindled-vulnerable-west-london-23560639