Published: 06:00, 17 May 2021
| Updated: 15:28, 17 May 2021
Gambler Peter Simmons stole his father's life savings – leaving him so broke he was forced to come out of retirement.
The 27-year-old posed as a fake investment banker called 'Paul Newman' to help defraud his dad of nearly £400,000.
He used some of the money to splash out on an £80,000 Range Rover. Maidstone Crown Court heard it was only when tree surgeon Peter Simmons senior went to the bank with his other children he discovered all the money gone.
The thief had also raided his father's safe and pawned rings once owned by his late mother.
Simmons junior telephoned his devastated dad telling him: "I'm sorry...I hope you will forgive me."
He began sobbing in the dock as he was being jailed for 42 months after admitting four charges of fraud.
Prosecutor Bridget Todd told how he had worked with his mother, Sharon, at the family's Greenway Forestry Ltd, based in Squires Close, Strood. She said Mr Simmons senior had lost £388,000 in total.
His wife died in October 2014 and the son took over the company's administration and banking, paying wages and VAT bills.
The court heard almost immediately he invented a personal investment banker called 'Paul Newman', who he claimed had assisted his late mother.
Ms Todd said Mr Simmons senior trusted his son and wasn't aware that Mr Newman was a "fictitious character invented by the defendant".
The swindling son even supplied his trusting dad with bogus Barclays Bank statements – designed to disguise the thieving by including genuine purchases.
Between June 5, 2015 and October 3, 2018, Simmons junior made 597 bank transfers from his father's personal account – ranging from £10 to £4,000.
"The combined total was an eye-watering sum of £303,330.10," she added. He also made 1,469 unauthorised bank transfers to online betting accounts from his father's personal account and during the same period made 207 payments from a business account, she added.
"During this period the family were aware he was spending a large amount of money. He explained it by saying that he earned it through gambling.
"Mr Simmons senior said his son was convincing and he believed he was receiving large sums through gambling, enabling him to buy high-value watches and even an £80,000 Range Rover in August 2018.
The court heard that in November of that year, the defendant's brother, Johnnie-Boy Simmons, stayed at the family home and their father complained he didn't have a bank card. This eventually led to the plot unravelling.
The daughter, Christie-Lou Hydes, also became suspicious her brother was stealing and 'Mr Newman' didn't exist.
Then on December 14, 2018, the sister, brother and father visited the bank in Strood and spoke with the manager who told there was no Mr Newman – and it was then Simmons junior called begging for forgiveness.
In the February, Mr Simmons senior received a letter from pawnbrokers and realised eight items of jewellery, including high-value gold rings belonging to his late wife, had been taken from his safe.
The prosecutor added Barclays Bank has since refunded Mr Simmons senior £321,385.
The father later wrote a victim impact statement, which read: "It all began at the time of my wife's passing and clearly I was vulnerable and trying to deal with unimaginable difficult situations.
"My son and I have always been close and our relationship over the years has been amazing. I love him very much.
"Not only did I lose my entire savings but it has destroyed the brilliant relationship I had with my son and created a divide I am unsure will ever be resolved.
"Peter left me with nothing...and I was forced out of retirement and back to work."
He added he was hurt his son had pawned his mother's rings, adding: "I can't believe he has done this."
Ms Hydes said her father – who used to be a "larger than life" character" – was now a "shadow of his former self."
She added he now felt "betrayed and alone" after the thieving by his son had broken him.
Max Reeves, defending, said Simmons junior, now of High Street, Manston, had been addicted to gambling and it had "spiralled out of control".
"He is now extremely remorseful, " he added.