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High Street Estate Agent who admitted £450,000 fraud using European Union subsidy payments
A PROMINENT Cumbrian estate agent responsible for a £450,000 fraud has been warned he may be jailed.
At Carlisle Crown Court, a judge issued the warning to 62-year-old Donald George Scott, who was also a trusted land agent in Wigton, after he entered guilty pleas to 13 charges of fraud.
By forging the signatures of his victims, Scott was able to sell so-called “entitlements” to their farmland – legal covenants which entitle the owner to European Union subsidy payments. He also took large sums of money from other customers who wrongly believed they were buying subsidy rights.
Prosecutor Lucy Wright said: “It is the crown’s case that Mr Scott, while working as a land agent and estate agent, committed fraud against those who entrusted him to look after their entitlements.
“He did this either by selling them without their knowledge, or by failing to invest money given to him to buy those entitlements.
That was the mechanism of the fraud, committed by signing forms and purporting to be the landowner.”
She said the offences represented a total value of around £450,000.
In the dock, Scott, of Low House Farm Cottage, Wigton, spoke only to confirm his name and enter his pleas, speaking in a quiet voice throughout.
Judge Davies told Scott, a man of previous good character: “The fact that I am granting you bail can not be taken to mean that there won’t be a custodial sentence. This is an extremely large sum of money. You must expect that it is possible that you will go to custody.”
The allegations admitted by Scott named seven victims. All were elderly farmers or landowners, who were among Scott’s loyal customers.
They include one man, who has since died, who was was fleeced of at least £81,000. Another victim, named as Caroline Armstrong, handed over to Scott more than £50,000 in the belief that he would invest the money in land entitlements, but she never got them. One victim lost more than £200,000.
The offences were all committed on dates between 2010 and 2015.
Other victims named in the charges include Dorothy Batty, Robert Swales, John Benson, William Fraser, and Michael Hilton.
It is thought Scott’s victims are unlikely to ever be fully compensated for the losses that they suffered.
Scott, who ran his business from premises in King Street, Wigton, was declared bankrupt in March last year.
The firm provided property services in and around Wigton for several years and its “for sale” signs were a familiar site in the area.
Scott began his career in Dumfries and Galloway, working as a junior auctioneer. He formed his own company in 2004, selling properties in the Wigton, Silloth and Aspatria area. He will be sentenced on April 22 after background reports have been prepared on him by the Probation Service. Judge Davies complimented the defence and prosecution teams for resolving the case, which had been due to go to trial.