Love rat who ‘looks like Shrek’ cons women out of £1 million

May 18, 2010 | by | 0 Comments

A serial love rat who is believed to have conned £1million out of hundreds of single women despite ”looking like Shrek” was jailed for five years.

Fraudster John Keady, 44, spent an estimated 20 years charming single women across the world before stealing their credit and debit cards to rack up huge debts.

He used different aliases to meet women through Facebook, dating sites, dating agencies and newspaper adverts and would be in several relationships at once.

Keady changed his hobbies, appearance and even his name to suit the lifestyles of his victims and told most of them he was a top business consultant.

He used dating websites such as ‘plentyoffish’ and ‘Zoosk’ to meet his victims, who included high-powered lawyers, GPs, fund managers, senior civil servants and businesswomen.

Several victims said he had told them he was ”charming and witty” and ”athletic” – but when they met him they thought he looked like Shrek the Ogre.

Once he started seeing the women he would often propose marriage before using their credit cards to buy goods and also steal their cash cards and pin numbers.

Keady, of Callington, Cornwall, would convince them to take out loans – or get them to sign a loan document by pretending he was booking a surprise holiday.

He was eventually caught after one woman went to the police and he has now been convicted of conning eight female victims.

But police fear he conned up to £1million out of hundreds of victims who are too embarrassed to come forward.

He was jailed for five years and three months at Truro Crown Court for defrauding £80,000 from eight separate women – including his mother and his first wife.

Keady had pleaded guilty to 19 offences of theft, deception and fraud with a further 17 taken into consideration.

Judge Christopher Elwen told him: ”The elaborate web of stories you constructed to obtain money from your victims was mean, mendacious and calculated.

”You caused distress, anxiety, unhappiness and depression. Your campaign was cruel, mean and an underhand deceit.”

Keady used aliases such as Peter Berry, Taz Keady and even referred to himself as ‘Dr’ to meet women through internet dating sites and agencies, the court heard.

He conned five-figure sums from fiancées in America and girlfriends in Europe, including £28,000 from a lady in Tayside, Scotland.

Keady moved all over the country – particularly the South West – finding new victims aged in their 30s and 40s and often met them at kayaking and canoe clubs.

He would take his victims to look around £3million properties, supercar showrooms and yacht dealerships pretending to be interested in making purchases.

Prosecutor Philip Lee told the court that Keady’s crimes included conning his adoptive mother, Elizabeth Berry, out of £20,000 using forged credit card and loan applications in her name.

He said: ”Other offences involved him befriending, forming relationships and gaining the trust of individuals, usually emotionally vulnerable female victims whom he has met via the internet.

”His ploys included claiming he was a wealthy business consultant, that he had qualifications or professional involvement in the same line of work as his victims, that his wallet and bank cards had been lost or stolen.

”He said he needed to borrow money urgently to save a business venture, that his offshore funds were temporarily inaccessible, and that he was ill and, or was in hospital.”

Keady was caught when one victim, divorcee Sara Terry, 42, from Hampshire, met him on an internet dating site and was later conned out of £35,000.

She said Berry first sent her a message on a dating website and after exchanging emails she thought she had found her perfect match.

Keady said he shared her love of Labradors and was full of ”charm, wit, impeccable manners and soft green-blue eyes” which ”melted her heart”.

She also said he told her he loved sailing and horse riding and she had expected someone ”sporty” – but when he arrived he looked like the cartoon character Shrek.

Sara said: ”I joined a dating site called Fitness Singles in 2008. Pete emailed that he was 40 – he was actually three years older – a very successful business consultant and interested in the same sports as me.

”He was 6ft 2in, weighed about 20 stone and looked like the cartoon character Shrek.
”But we had so much to talk about, and he was so interested in me that, to my surprise, I found him very attractive.”

Sara said he gained her trust and after he moved in he proposed in December 2008 – and then borrowed her credit card to buy himself a ”Christmas present” while she was away.

But she later discovered he had used the card to take out an annual subscription to Zoosk (corr) another online dating site.

She said: ”He also managed to work out details of my two bank accounts. He phoned the bank while I was away, pretending to be me, and put up my credit limit.

”Because I use direct debit as much as possible I wasn’t in the habit of checking my bank statements, something I now realise was quite wrong.

”He also took out a loan application to the bank for £15,000 without me knowing. Now I’m paying £400 a month for 47 weeks.”

In 2009 her purse and credit cards went missing and she became suspicious and rang to check the balance on her current accounts and credit cards.

She said: ”I was told that each of my two bank accounts was about £1,000 overdrawn and that I owed about £9,000 on my credit cards.”

Sara immediately called police and contacted all of Keady’s friends on Facebook.

She said: ”I told them what had happened and arranged to call 999 when he next showed up.

”When he did, they came to arrest him and all he said when they marched him off was to ask me to look after his dog.”

Mabel Arnhill, a 32-year-old businesswoman, was conned out of £15,000 after Keady got her credit card details and emptied her account.

Lynne Martin, 40, of Tayside, Scotland, lost around £30,000 to Keady and lived all over the country including Callington, Cornwall.

She said: ”He was a real seducer. He’s very good at it. But I think career women are more vulnerable.

”When men put a lot into their work and don’t have partners or children they are admired, whereas women feel under pressure to have it all and get anxious about finding a partner while they are of child-bearing age.

”If you say you are interested in something he, chameleon-like, says he is too. I agreed he could stay and for the next five days he had me running around after him. We shared a bed, but didn’t have sex.

”He also said he wanted to marry me and I felt really excited. We had so many common interests, I felt I had met the right man.”

Detective Constable Derek Farrow, who led the case against him, said he feared they will never know how many women he conned.

He said: ”There could be hundreds more victims. Many, who are high-powered lawyers, GPs, fund managers, senior civil servants and businesswomen, haven’t wanted to press charges in case it affected their careers.

”I believe that he is an accomplished, cold and calculating villain who could easily have taken more than £1million.

”He is just brilliant at gaining people’s confidence and creating an image of a successful, affluent man.”

The court heard Keady was adopted at six months old and worked briefly at a naval dockyard but has never held down a regular job.

Defending, Barrie van den Berg, said his client had shown ”remorse” and his apologies were ”sincere”.

But Judge Elwen told him: ”I find that quite impossible to believe. The only thing in his favour are his guilty pleas.”

The judge said the aggravating features were his ”significant breaches of trust”, the number of vulnerable victims and his criminality over a long period.

He was jailed for five years three months minus 117 days on remand.

Judge Elwen ordered that a financial investigation into Keady’s affairs under the Proceeds of Crime Act to be heard in August.

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