A CONVINCING conman carried out a “particularly pernicious” fraud, taking more than £50,000 from a professional woman, with a view to steal more, a court heard.

Shaun Anthony Verner posed as a successful businessman to impress the victim who he met on an online dating site, in January 2016.

Durham Crown Court was told the woman worked for professional global services group Ernst and Young, owning a four-bedroom house.

Richard Holland, prosecuting, said they seemed to “hit it off”, sharing a passion for travel, Portugal and music.

Verner spun a series of lies, claiming to own a four-bedroom home, in Bishop Auckland, running a successful stage lighting business with international clients, including Barry Manilow.

He invented a story that he was to receive a large negligence pay-out for spinal treatment from the NHS.

Verner persuaded the victim to “invest” £28,000 in non-existent property in Portugal, with the promise of “fabulous returns”, while she also loaned him £12,000 when he suffered, “temporary cash flow problems”.

She accepted his offer to take over her financial affairs, but he changed passwords so he could transfer money into his own account.

He persuaded her to give up her job and join him on a four-month “business trip”, which unknown to her, was paid for by Verner using money from her account.

Mr Holland said she sold her home near Newcastle to move into a flat in Durham, but after Verner began making further cash requests, she transferred the proceeds of the sale into an account of which he was unaware, in April 2017.

Extensive police inquiries revealed the loss to the victim was at least £55,000.

The court heard Verner, 55, of St Oswald Bungalows, Thornley, with previous similar convictions, denied any offending and only admitted six fraud charges recently, with a trial date looming.

Robert Mochrie, for Verner, said the defendant believes a diagnosis for bipolar disorder, for which he now receives appropriate medication, may have played a part in his offending.

Judge James Adkin said medical opinion disagrees with that notion, and said Verner’s offending was, “breathtakingly, persistently convoluted, and emotionally manipulated,” and, “a particularly pernicious type of fraud.”

Imposing a 54-month prison sentence, the judge also set in motion crime proceeds proceedings, with a hearing set for September 17.