A "thoroughly dishonest" fraudster who posed as a millionaire and duped two women out of more than £400,000 has been put behind bars.

Marc Raven deceived grandmother Janet Pye into marrying him and selling her home after claiming he was a successful businessman who owned a flat in an expensive part of North Yorkshire. The gran ended up marrying the 61-year-old in Las Vegas after giving up her job and selling her home less than a year after meeting him on a dating app.

The victim ended up declaring bankruptcy after Raven, of Northumberland Road, Lemington, Newcastle, conned her out of up to £320,000 over an 18-month period, Teesside Live reports. This week, Raven appeared at York Crown Court and was jailed for eight years after admitting two counts of fraud.

Raven had also preyed upon a second victim, Janice Tan, in Singapore, after claiming to be an investigator with the job of recouping cash she'd lost in a separate timeshare scam. He tricked her into sending £108,000 when he claimed to be seriously ill in Dubai and needing the cash to pay for medical bills.

Prosecutor Carmel Pearson said Ms Pye met Raven, who used several aliases, through a dating app in January 2018 and they were married by October. The former car salesman, who has previous convictions for fraud in the motor industry, told her he had a large amount of money in a Singapore bank account that he was having difficulty accessing.

He then encouraged her to sell her flat in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, convincing her they would soon be buying a property worth over £1 million. Meanwhile, he was taking money from her, with the promise he would pay her back - which he never did.

Between June 2018 and May 2019, she'd transferred more than £200,000 into his account. She had to declare herself bankrupt and move in with family members. The court heard he wangled money out of her by persuading her to sell her home so he could “invest” it. She said Raven seemed “kind, generous and thoughtful” after she met him in January 2018 when he told her he had returned from Singapore because he felt unwell and had spent £100,000 on his father’s medical care.

Ms Pearson said: “When she first became involved with him, he told her he’d been involved in buying and selling properties and she thought he was a businessman who had done well and made sensible investments." She spent most of her time in the home that Raven said he owned in an affluent part of Yarm, but in fact he was only renting it and was in arrears with rent. Ms Pye agreed to give up her job and her mortgage-free home to commit totally to a life with Raven.

He invited her and her family to his holiday home in the Canary Islands, but no villa existed and they went to a hotel. Back in the UK he showed his fiancée around expensive properties he wanted to buy, claiming to have £4m in the bank. When they married in Las Vegas, it was Ms Pye who paid for the expensive trip, the court heard. Costs included a Cartier watch, designer handbags and shoes for her, on the understanding Raven would pay her back.

Convincing her they could spend up to £1.8 million on a new house, they made an offer for a property, only for Raven to pull out of the deal, due to a difficulty with the current owners. When he was responsible for another property bid falling through, Ms Pye had already bought furniture. They also visited Paris and Geneva, on Ms Pye's expense, so he could "free up frozen funds". But on their return he lied that a solicitor had "embezzled the money".

Ms Pearson added: “She was told that when his money came through, he would give her £500,000 to cover all the expenditure they incurred." By this time her two adult children were becoming concerned about her spending, which caused a family rift. Raven tried to smooth things over by giving them a cheque for £20,000, but it bounced.

A cheque he gave Ms Pye also bounced. Raven also persuaded his wife to give him £25,000 for a Jaguar, only for him to disappear and return with a much less valuable car. By October 2019, she began to demand answers from Raven as she was heavily in debt. He told her he would go to the bank with her the following day “and sort it out”, but he disappeared.

Ms Pye declared herself bankrupt and effectively became homeless, forced to sleep in spare rooms with family, on whom she relied for financial support. In a statement read out in court, her daughter said: “The damage Marc has done to my family is immeasurable and no punishment will ever repair the damage he’s done to my mum.”

Raven was arrested and North Yorkshire Police also discovered he'd duped Ms Tan in Singapore. Ms Tan was the victim of a timeshare scam and Raven introduced himself as an investigator charged with recouping her money.

Between December 2016 and May 2017, Raven convinced her he was a wealthy businessman who led a “very lavish” lifestyle. Raven left suddenly in May 2017 but contacted her to say he was ill in Dubai after collapsing with high blood pressure. He persuaded her to send him £107,000 over a year-long period to cover medical bills and other costs. By January 2019, Ms Tan could not contact him, but he was already deep into his second swindle of Ms Pye.

The court heard he has an extensive criminal history with previous convictions for 58 offences, including thefts from former employers and obtaining property by deception while working as a car salesman. He was due to appear at the court in July for a plea hearing but didn’t turn up, claiming he was unwell. He'd actually left the country in June two days after being bailed by magistrates, having applied for a passport under the alias Marc Cohen.

Judge Simon Hickey branded Raven a “thoroughly dishonest” man and described his offences as “nasty and disgusting”. He said he didn’t believe Raven was remorseful, adding: “You haven’t changed any of your spots. Like a stick of rock, dishonesty seems to run through your life. Both of these women trusted you implicitly because they thought they were entering into a real romantic relationship. Emotionally and financially, they have been destroyed by your behaviour.”

Following the sentence, Detective Constable Neil Brodhurst, of North Yorkshire Police, said Raven’s deception had “shattered lives.”

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