Fraudster who stole antiques from elderly jailed

Peter Taylor, 61, posed as an antiques dealer from a Chelsea auction house to dupe victims out of hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Henry Vaughan
Thursday 31 March 2022 17:41
The sentencing took place at Isleworth Crown Court in London (Anthony Devlin/PA)
The sentencing took place at Isleworth Crown Court in London (Anthony Devlin/PA)

A conman who posed as an antiques dealer from a Chelsea auction house to dupe elderly and vulnerable victims out of hundreds of thousands of pounds has been jailed for five-and-a-half years.

Peter Taylor, 61, posted flyers and business cards through letterboxes in west London homes to target people desperate for money to pay their mortgages, looking to boost their pensions or wanting to provide financial help to family members.

Taylor, from Twickenham in the London borough of Richmond, went into their homes to collect antiques, offering to value them himself at his workplace or invite experts to assess them.

He would then store or sell the items, which included artworks, rugs, jewellery, furniture and kitchenware, but the proceeds promised to the victims were not sent and he usually ceased contact with them.

Taylor was found guilty of 11 counts of fraud following a trial which concluded in January.

In passing sentence at Isleworth Crown Court on Thursday, Judge Sarah Paneth said the defendant had been “motivated by greed and arrogance”.

She added: “All the evidence demonstrates that everything you’ve done is for your own profit, that once you got the items you treated them as your own and regarded their owners as annoyances who you simply swatted away or even abused.

“You abused the trust of decent, trusting people.”

She had hoped to sell the items to support herself and offer financial support to her family. She is now financially dependent on her daughter and unable to support herself

Prosecutor Katrina Charles, on the impact on one victim

The judge said the overall value of the 11 victims’ losses was in the region of £200,000, and Taylor had not shown “any remorse” for causing them “considerable distress”.

She acknowledged it had been a “very painful experience” for the witnesses, adding: “It is very difficult when you feel you’ve been fooled.”

Helen Shaw, district crown prosecutor at the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), said: “Peter Taylor presented himself as a trustworthy businessman from a reputable auction house – but in fact he was far from this.

“Taylor dishonestly took precious items from his victims and either sold them on for less than they were worth or held on to them for his own gain.

“During the trial a number of the victims gave vital evidence detailing the fraud, and the difficult toll that it had taken on their personal lives and finances. Many of the victims described being left feeling anxious and stressed by the scam.

“Fraud can have a profound effect on the confidence of victims and the CPS is dedicated to rooting out those who carry out this type of crime so that they can face justice.”

Roy Turner said he lost between £5,000 and £10,000 after entrusting Taylor to sell his collection of watercolours and prints.

Peter Taylor has been jailed for five-and-a-half years (Anthony Devlin/PA)

He told the court it had taken his “whole life” to build the collection, which had “great sentimental value” and with which he had wanted to raise money for his son and daughter-in-law to buy a house.

“I now realise I am probably a vulnerable old man. I didn’t think I was,” he said.

Chef Eric Payet believes he lost at least £112,000 after allowing Taylor to clear out two of his restaurants of expensive kitchen equipment, furniture and artwork, a step he took because he was in dire financial straits.

He said he has now had to take a job in Saudi Arabia away from his wife and children because he cannot get back into business “due to the enormous loss”.

The prosecutor said: “He was embarrassed because he had placed his trust in Peter Taylor.”

Maria Gabriela Ponce de Leao, herself an antiques dealer for around 30 years, lost items she considered to be her “life savings” worth around £40,000, including a £2,500 cuckoo clock, a Cartier box and an 18-carat gold ring.

She said it “made her feel sick” when she found out a bureau she paid £3,500 for had been sold by Taylor for just £650.

“She had hoped to sell the items to support herself and offer financial support to her family,” Ms Charles said. “She is now financially dependent on her daughter and unable to support herself.”

Lady Patsy Alliott, who gave evidence a month before her 90th birthday, described “suffering extreme distress and anxiety” as a result of Taylor’s actions and “has expressed a desire to have her items”, including a rosewood jewellery box, returned.

Prosecutor Katrina Charles said: “This case involved a number of elderly and vulnerable victims.

“He purported to be from an established auction house in Chelsea.

“Each and every victim invited Mr Taylor into their home, into their personal space, and spoke with him and allowed him to remove items from their home address.

“Particularly those of a certain age, it made them feel very vulnerable.”

The court heard Taylor has two previous convictions for 10 offences and was previously jailed for four years over a £1.4 million scam involving his property development business.

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