A CONMAN who stole nearly £30,000 from a woman he met through a lonely hearts advert has been brought to justice after more than a decade onthe- run in the US.

James Jevons was last night starting a prison sentence for what a judge described as “an unpleasant offence” in which he told his victim a series of lies to get her to hand over cash to him.

The Middlesbrough mechanic claimed he had money tied up in overseas accounts and told stories of connections with the Army and the SAS, Teesside Crown Court heard yesterday.

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In all, his victim, from Great Broughton, near Stokesley, North Yorkshire, handed over £29,800 during their 18-month relationship in the late- Nineties, said David Bradshaw, prosecuting.

Jevons was arrested in August 1998 and was due to stand trial in 2001, but a warrant was issued for his arrest when he failed to turn up at court on multiple theft and fraud charges.

He was re-arrested in February after he flew into Manchester Airport when it emerged that the divorcee had handed himself into the US authorities three months earlier.

Investigators discovered he had started a new life on the other side of the Atlantic. He had remarried but got divorced and was hoping to be wed for a second time in Pennsylvania.

The court heard that Jevons’ passport and travel visa had expired and the renewal of the documents would have alerted the authorities to the 60-year-old’s status as a wanted man.

He told the court he wanted to start his new life without the fear of his past returning to haunt him, and came back to the UK “to face the music”

and “get this monkey off my back”.

Jevons, formerly of Kilton Court, Marton, was held in the Clinton County Correctional Institute for three months before being deported, and was arrested when his flight touched down.

Jevons pleaded guilty to six charges of theft and two of obtaining money transfers by deception, as well as breaching his bail by absconding, and was locked up for a total of 12 months.

In a basis of plea, he said the bulk of the money he stole from his middle-aged victim was spent on things like holidays for her.

He also claimed some of the cash had been used for his son’s funeral, but detectives who have spent more than a decade investigating his past are still not convinced the story is true.

His barrister, Paul Abrahams, told Mr Justice Openshaw: “He always knew that one day someone would come knocking on the door, and what he didn’t want – he discussed this with his partner – was to ruin the relationship by not telling her the truth.

“He decided, with her, that the best way to continue the relationship and prevent the spectre rising at some point in that relationship to hand himself in to the American authorities.”

Jevons, who worked as a technician at a teaching hospital in Pennsylvania, was given the unusual opportunity to give evidence on oath about the time he had spent in custody in the US.

He said he was housed in a holding facility with other immigrants – notably from Mexico, Guatemala and Russia – before being returned to the UK and Holme House Prison, in Stockton.

Detective Constable Kevan Howe, who pursued Jevons relentlessly following his escape, said: “We are pleased that justice has finally caught up with him. He betrayed his victim in the most devious and cruel way for his own gain.”