£150,000 trickster must pay back £1

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The Independent Online

A conwoman jailed for fleecing her own grandmother was ordered to pay back £1 of her ill-gotten gains today.

Emma Charlton, formerly known as Emma Golightly, was jailed in March for a string of frauds totalling £150,000.

She posed as the editor of Vogue magazine to con her fiance out of almost £30,000 and used her grandmother's stolen chequebook to pay for more than £125,000 worth of holidays, food, and jewellery.

The 25-year-old, of Meadowfield Gardens, in Walkerville, Newcastle, was snared after she used stolen cheques to pay for a charity fashion show at the Hilton Hotel in Gateshead, which never took place.

Prosecutors at Newcastle Crown Court said it was impossible to tell exactly what had happened to all the money Charlton stole, but that much of it was spent maintaining the illusion she was an independently wealthy, highly successful businesswoman.

Not all the cheques she made out were cashed, but her greed saw her benefit by tens of thousands of pounds, a proceeds of crime hearing heard.

Charlton, who is now penniless, was brought from her cell to hear Judge Brian Forster order she pay back just £1.

Prosecutor Carl Gumsley said: "The benefit of the defendant's criminal enterprise ran to £26,704.38.

"The available amount is nil and we would ask for a nominal order of £1."

Judge Forster said: "In view of the fact that the defendant has no available assets I make a nominal finding in the sum of £1."

Charlton is serving a three year jail sentence imposed after she admitted a total of 23 charges of fraud and theft, committed between September 2008 and May 2009.

She told her fiance Neil Lupton she was a highly successful businesswoman who ran a chain of photographic studios, but that she was terminally ill with cancer and wished to get married before she died.

Charlton wrote 19 cheques to a total of £126,387.90 using her grandmother's chequebook and nine cheques using her fiance's chequebook, totalling £28,402.

Some of the cheques were used in an attempt to book a lavish £73,000 wedding ceremony at Slaley Hall Hotel in Northumberland, where she told staff she was the editor of Vogue magazine, even carrying a miniature dog to complete the illusion.

She also admitted making an online loan application with Alliance and Leicester in her fiance's name to obtain £8,000.

The femme fatale was first exposed as a serial love rat and conwoman when she was jailed in 2007 for two years for plundering the bank accounts of men she met through lonely hearts ads.

She met her victims, seduced them and then stole their cash, spending the money on exotic holidays.

Mitigating, Michael Hodson said Charlton was not motivated by self interest but had been trying to create a fantasy world in which she feels better about herself.