‘My 100-year-old cousin asked me to empty her account and sell her home’ says man accused of fraud

Edmond Fenton cleared of fraud

Edmond Fenton cleared of fraud - Credit: Archant

An alleged fraudster accused of “pillaging” more than £400,000 from the bank accounts of a 100-year-old cousin and selling her house claimed the pensioner asked him to empty her account to prevent social services taking her assets.

Edmond Fenton, 71, of Winchester Road, Hampstead, is accused of helping himself to the cash while he had power of attorney for his cousin Marie Ell, who was said by the prosecution to be “confused” and living in a retirement home.

While admitting transferring cash and selling her house, Fenton told Blackfriars Crown Court that he cared deeply for Miss Ell and was acting on her instructions and in her interests.

He said: “She wanted her account emptied so social services couldn’t take her money.

“In order to comply with her very distinct requests, I did it.”

Mr Geoffrey Payne, defending, said: “Miss Ell was not confused at all but feisty, determined, knew her own mind and consented to everything he did.”

Television marketing executive Fenton, a former chairman of World TV Ltd and joint MD of Keith Prowse Travel Group, told the jury he was renovating a farmhouse he owned in the Algarve where he intended to retire, and planned to take Miss Ell out of the care home to live with him.

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But Mr John Traversi, prosecuting, had told Blackfriars Crown Court: “This case concerns the cynical and dishonest dissipation of an elderly and confused lady’s assets.

“He pillaged her bank accounts, her savings accounts and sold off her house and took the money while acting under a power of attorney over her affairs and spent the money for himself.”

Fenton is accused of transferring a total of £402,262.11 from spinster Marie Ell’s current and savings account to his own account.

“A large part of this was the proceeds of the sale of her house,” Mr Traversi told the jury.

Blackfriars Crown Court heard that after selling the house, in Priory Grove, Romford, for £285,273, Fenton put the money in former dentist Miss Ell’s account before transferring the money into his account in sums of £10,000 at a time.

A further £12,440 was also transferred out of Miss Ell’s ISA savings account, with £5,000 going directly into Mr Fenton’s own account.

After transferring the money, said the prosecution, Fenton spent £26,000 in Portugal, where he owned an Algarve farmhouse, paying directly from his relative’s account.

He also splashed out a further £400,000 in the UK, Portugal and Chile making “large currency transactions”, jurors were told.

Fenton denies one count of fraud and another of transferring criminal property between April 29 2010 and 31 January 2012.

Mr Payne, defending, said: “The prosecution case fails before it even got started. There was no pillaging of her assets. THe essence of the case comes down to this. How can you be sure that everything Mr Fenton admits he did was not done with the full consent and knowledge of Marie Ell?”

He said Miss Ell’s intentions were confirmed by the fact that she had drafted a will leaving all her assets to Mr Fenton before she died.

Miss Ell, who was unmarried with no children, passed away on October 5, 2014, at the age of 100.

The case continues with the jury expected to retire this afternoon.