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Trio ‘conned pensioner with £500,000 promise’, jury told

A PENSIONER was allegedly conned into releasing £78,000 equity in her home and then swindled out of almost all of the money in the space of three days.

The 66-year-old confided to her friend Antoinette Ede that she was short of money and she told her that she knew a woman who could help by giving her financial advice.

She introduced her to Carol Penfold who persuaded her to release some of the value of a house she owned in Ashburton and who claimed she could turn £75,000 into £500,000 in 10years.

Penfold allegedly posed as home owner Carole Wood’s sister during meetings with an equity release adviser and accompanied her to her bank in Newton Abbot to withdraw the money as soon as it reached her account.

Ms Wood withdrew £48,000 during three visits in consecutive days to the Natwest branch where staff became so suspicious that they called the police.

Penfold stood at her side on each visit to the counter and also got her to transfer a further £15,000 to the account of her friend Jeff Wilkes, ostensibly for building work but with the intention of transferring it to Penfold.

After the bank called in the police, they contacted Ms Wood’s daughter, and they went to Penfold’s home where they found piles of cash on a table but with thousands of pounds missing, Exeter Crown Court was told.

Penfold, aged 62, of Meadowcroft Drive, Kingsteignton, Ede, aged 53, of Manor Road, Newton Abbot, and Wilkes, aged 58, of Exeter Road, Kingsteignton, all deny conspiracy to defraud.

Penfold and Ede also deny an alternative count of fraud by false representation.

Mr Lee Bremridge, prosecuting, said Ms Wood knew Ede through a mutual interest in horses and told her in early 2018 that she had money worries. Ede introduced her to Penfold, who she described as her aunt, and took her to her home.

Ms Wood gave Penfold all her bank details and she applied for loans and credit cards unsuccessfully before suggesting releasing equity on a £200,000 house she owned in Emmetts Park, Ashburton.

Penfold posed as her sister so she could sit with her at meetings with an equity release adviser that led to a payment of £79,000, of which about £1,000 went in professional fees.

The rest was paid into Ms Wood’s account in May and most was withdrawn over the next three days, with Penfold escorting her to the Natwest branch in Courtenay Street on each occasion.

Ms Woods withdrew £10,400 cash on the first day which was used to buy a Mitsubishi truck in a sale arranged by Penfold. The pick-up was later valued at £7,000 by police.

The next day she tried to withdraw £35,000 but the bank would only let her take out £20,000, so the remaining £15,000 was transferred to Wilkes.

The final withdrawal happened the next day, May 24, when £18,000 was handed to Penfold, supposedly to invest.

Mr Bremridge said: ‘Penfold did everything she could to gain Ms Wood’s trust and confidence. She promised to invest the money and guaranteed that in ten years, £75,000 would become £500,000.

‘She said the money would be a wonderful surprise for her daughter and she agreed to keep it a surprise and not to tell her.’

The bank called in the police, who alerted the daughter, and she and her mother went to Penfold’s home, where they saw a large amount of cash on a table. It was £29,750 which was returned to the bank account.

Penfold told Ms Wood that she had given £5,000 to Ede and that she would return it.

All three denied dishonesty when interviewed by police. Penfold said she was trying to help Ms Woods and had no intention of stealing the cash.

Ede said she thought everything was above board and she was lent £5,000 by Penfold as an unrelated transaction and did not know it was Ms Wood’s money.

Wilkes said he was going to do building work on Ms Woods home but the scheme fell through and he returned the money.

The trial continues and is due to last all week.

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