Published: 18:40, 12 February 2018
Lester Thorpe portrayed himself as a former professional golfer and a successful sports trader with an office in Mayfair.
The enigmatic 36-year-old used his persuasive skills to talk lovers and friends into “investing” more than £350,000 in his schemes.
But now Thorpe has been exposed for what he truly is: “A mug punter of huge proportions!”
The hopeless gambler, whose address was given by the court as Leslie Crescent, St Michaels, Tenterden, blew the lot on greyhound races, leaving six victims out of pocket, and one needing a Wonga loan.
Judge James O’Mahony told him: “You are a practised confidence trickster of very considerable proportion and skill. You are charismatic, engaging and utterly persuasive.
“You are also utterly dishonest! You are a mug punter of huge proportions."”
Now the crook, who admitted 10 offences of fraud, has been jailed for a total of 54 months.
Prosecutor Don Ramble had told Canterbury Crown Court how Thorpe had funded his lifestyle by conning others and then gambling away his victim’s money on – as the judge wryly observed – “ the sick dog at Perry Barr”.
Mr Ramble said: “He obtained this money by lying about his job. He claimed to be a sports trader employed by Betfair, when he was not!
“He came across as very charming and, in particular, gained the trust of a number of women he had met online.
“He then proceeded to obtain their bank or credit cards details to use their money to gamble or persuaded them to pay over increasingly large sums of money to release money he had claimed to have invested on their behalf...defrauding them of, in total, £371,445.86.”
The arrogant fraudster even had the gall to tell police that “all parties knew (what) the monies were used for...and monies were deposited following discussion and mutual agreement.”
But the judge retorted: "He should have told them: 'I'm a complete loser!' That's the truth. They wouldn't have invested anything if he had told them that."
And after he was arrested, he was told not to contact any of his victims and asked the detective: “What happens if at some point, I get my phone back and I have the usual messages from said people?”
After being told he couldn’t not talk to them and replied: “So, you’re happy with them not getting their money back? Is that correct?
“That’s ideal You’ve just saved me a bundle of money. I’ll sign for that. Thank you...Oh yeah, I’ll be sentenced but I’d rather that than pay the money.”
Thorpe also told the police officer, who he sneeringly dismissed as a “trainee”, that it would be on his conscience if one of his victims lost out.
But Judge O’Mahony, who read a letter penned by the con artist, said he took his explanations “with a pinch of salt”..adding: “I’m not going to be conned by you!”
Thorpe has previous fraud convictions dating back to 2007.
Judge O’Mahony was told by defence counsel ,who had spoken with Thorpe’s father , who said “wistfully, it was pity you had not applied your clear qualities to an honest and ultimately much more rewarding life".
In a previous version of this article we referred to Thorpe having previous convictions for fraud, one of which led to a 45-month sentence. That should have read 45-week sentence. We apologise for the error and are happy to correct that.