Penniless con artist spun tale of being rich to seduce woman out of £600,000

Man ‘struck lucky’ while online from his bedsit, concocting a story of life in the international jet-set

Click to follow
The Independent Online

A penniless conman seduced a wealthy woman out of more than £600,000 by posing as a retired Goldman Sachs billionaire.

Alistair Stewart, 53, claimed to be a fund manager running his own finance company in Switzerland and the owner of a jet, yacht and helicopter. His victim, Nina Siegenthaler, an estate agent in the Turks and Caicos Islands, fell in love with him and believed he would help invest her savings.

Stewart was, in fact, living on benefits in a bedsit in Burgess Hill, West Sussex.

Once he got hold of the money, Stewart used it to back up his claims by buying a £50,000 Mercedes. Over the next four months he blew almost all of the money on stays at luxury hotels and helicopter trips to London to shop at Harrods. Stewart also scammed at least five other victims with his false claims of wealth between January 2009 and January 2011. He told one woman he could offer her work as an interior designer earning $800,000 (£500,000) over three years.

Stewart also told a husband and wife that he could employ them as a captain and cook on his yacht.

He appeared at the Old Bailey to plead guilty to one count of fraud on a “full facts basis”.

Stewart has recently been staying at The Priory, the private mental health hospital famous for treating celebrities. Prosecutor Ben Maguire said: “Mr Stewart paid for his admission with the use of credit cards. This is a man who is on benefits and we are not aware how he can afford the costs of the Priory, at £4,000.”

Judge Stephen Kramer QC remanded Stewart in custody until his sentencing on 19 December.

The judge told him: “All sentencing options are open and the almost inevitable conclusion would be a sentence of immediate custody.”

Detective Superintendent Mick Richards, of the economic crime unit at Sussex Police, said: “He was living in a bedsit on benefits in Burgess Hill. He spends his life on the internet conning people and he struck lucky.”