'Millionaire shoplifter' jailed
One of Britain's most notorious conmen has been handed a four-year prison sentence after committing fraud by stealing letters from residents' outside mail boxes.
Kevin Castle, who was dubbed by police the "Millionaire Shoplifter" and also known as "Claridge's Conman", obtained credit cards in other people's names and ran up tens of thousands of pounds in bills in just 10 months.
The 47-year-old, of West Buckland, Wellington, Somerset, pleaded guilty to 26 fraud charges, one theft and one of acquiring criminal property.
In 2008 the conman, who started his criminal career in 1985 and has 18 previous convictions for 72 offences, was jailed for 28 months for forging till receipts of shoplifted DIY goods to obtain cash refunds.
Sentenced alongside Castle was his partner of four years, Cathryn Russell, 42, who admitted four counts of fraud and was handed a community order of 120 hours unpaid work.
Exeter Crown Court heard Castle used the money to maintain his luxury lifestyle, which consisted of a £2,000-a-month five bedroom house with 11 acres of land and stables, six horses and a rented Mitsubishi 4x4, as well as expensive electrical goods.
But Castle, an electrical engineer by trade, was caught out after one of his victims, Steve Broomfield, fitted a CCTV camera outside his Somerset home and caught Castle on film. During a search of his property police found a tin box hidden in a hedgerow with documents linking Castle to various offences.
David Sapiecha, prosecuting, said: "The house, the vehicle, and everything else was obtained through fraud and that extended to the household bills. It was in essence his business... there were multiple applications, multiple victims, multiple cards and multiple banks... it was a sophisticated operation."
Mr Sapiecha told the court Castle had fraudulently obtained £61,500 between August 2010 and June 2011. The court heard mother-of-three Ms Russell, who had also been receiving tax credits and a disability allowance for her 14-year-old daughter, had "turned a blind eye" to Castle's actions and had "reaped the benefits" from them.
Judge John Neligan sentenced the career criminal, who appeared at court dressed in a red jumper and blue jeans, to four years in prison. Speaking to the defendant he said: "The lifestyle you enjoyed was one which otherwise was nowhere near what you, as an unemployed person, could aspire to."