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Trio deny conning pensioner in £77,000 equity release scam

A KINGSTEIGNTON woman and her niece have denied fleecing a pensioner out of thousands of pounds and told a jury they were trying to help her.

Carol Penfold and Antoinette Ede denied that they persuaded Carole Wood to take out equity release on her home in Ashburton and hand over most of £77,000 proceeds.

Ede was a long-standing friend of Ms Wood and the two women shared a mutual interest in horses. She is alleged to have introduced her to Penfold, who is said to have offered to invest her money and turn it into £500,000 in ten years.

The prosecution say Penfold also involved her friend Jeff Wilkes in the plot by using his bank account to transfer £15,000 from Ms Wood.

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

Penfold stood at her side on each visit and is alleged to have supplied Wilkes’ bank details when the bank refused to pay out more than £20,000 in cash.

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, also known as Small, 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.

The jury have been told that Penfold has a previous conviction for stealing £40,000 from a friend by pretending to pay off a solicitor’s bill while pocketing the money.

Penfold told the jury that she was trying to help Ms Wood and had applied unsuccessfully for loans for her. She said Ms Wood rather than her suggested the equity release scheme.

She said she had helped Ms Wood organise it and gone to meetings with an equity release adviser and a solicitor to support her but denied pressuring her in any way.

She also denied offering to invest the money and said Ms Wood had chosen to take the money out of the bank and had left it with her because she had a safe at her home.

Penfold said Ms Wood had already spent £10,400 buying a Mitsubishi truck and was planning to spend more of the cash buying a horse box. She said she had no intention of stealing the money.

She said: “I did not suggest the money would be invested. I never instructed her or persuade her to invest. I was trying to help her.”

Ede told the jury her friend Ms Wood told her she was in debt and she offered to introduce her to her aunt, Penfold, who she thought could help.

She said she went to one meeting with Ms Wood but was not involved with the financial arrangements and knew nothing about any offer to invest the money.

She said that she borrowed £5,000 from her aunt to fix her partner’s van without realising the cash had come from Ms Wood. She returned it as soon as she learned it had.

She said: ‘I’m a bit thick. I don’t understand long words like investment.’

Wilkes chose not to give evidence but told the police he thought the payment was a genuine deposit for building work and returned it to the bank as soon as he realised there was an issue with it.

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