A FRAUDSTER who fleeced a wealthy divorcee of cash and forged documents in order to lay claim on her expensive detached home has been jailed for five years.

David Graham, who separately committed a near £800,000 mortgage fraud, was described by a judge at Teesside Crown Court as “plausible, devious and determined”.

Detectives from Durham Police’s fraud squad flew thousands of miles to build a case against Graham, visiting the British Virgin Islands, in the Caribbean, where the 51-year-old said he was employed by a sailing company.

Loading article content

He provided false salary slips from the company, inflating his wages, and forged utility bills to make a series of mortgage and loan applications between October 2001 and October 2005.

He also secured a three-year finance deal on a top-of-the range Porsche.

In October 2006, Graham met a woman living in The Downs, an upmarket estate in Durham City, who had separated from her husband. They later divorced and the woman took ownership of a four-bedroomed plus detached home, valued at an estimated £600,000.

Matthew Bean, prosecuting, said: “David Graham appeared to be a successful businessman involved in businesses across the North-East and the Caribbean.

“She had some concerns about his behaviour, but they began a relationship.”

In October 2007 the woman agreed to lend Graham £40,000 after he claimed a flat he owned was about to be repossessed.

By the following spring the defendant was complaining of more financial difficulties, but still managed to take a holiday in the Caribbean.

“From there he contacted her and became increasingly aggressive demanding more money,” the prosecutor said.

In September 2008, the woman obtained a non-molestation order against Graham, preventing him from contacting her or going to her home.

However, Graham sought to prove that he was entitled to live in the property by producing a ‘Declaration of Trust’ document from October 2007 which appeared to contain the woman’s signature.

He also wrote to the Land Registry stating he had a legal interest in the home, preventing its sale.

Mr Bean said the Declaration of Trust also contained the signatures of two other men, Joseph Catterson and Stuart Heather, who in December 2008 signed affidavits at Newcastle County Court stating they had witnessed the victim signing the document.

Graham later admitted the document was a forgery, while Catterson and Heather admitted perverting the course of justice.

On July 26 2011 police searched Graham’s home in Jesmond Gardens, Newcastle, finding copies of the woman's signature.

Ian West, for Graham, who admitted forgery and was convicted of seven counts of obtaining a money transfer by deception, said: “He is of previous good character and a carer for his elderly mother.”

Barristers for 51-year-old Catterson, of Furness Close, Bishop Auckland, and 40-year-old Heather, of Woodburn Drive, Whitley Bay, said both were working men who had not benefitted from their involvement.

Judge Tony Briggs told Graham he had caused a considerable degree of misery. He said: “You are an enigma, a highly unusual man, very intelligent and have the gift of giving a good impression to other people.”

The judge jailed Graham for five years, while Catterson and Heather each received a 12-month jail sentence, suspended for two years.