Shropshire Star

Formula 1 lies and an 'evil twin sister': Romance scam victim defrauded his friends out of £130,000+

An online romance scam victim pretended he had invented a revolutionary Formula 1 engine part to defraud friends of more than £130,000.

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Marsh was sentenced at Shrewsbury Crown Court, sitting at Telford Justice Centre

Pensioner Roger Marsh was spared jail for his actions, which included an extraordinary string of lies, because a judge accepted he himself was a victim, having been exploited by an online scammer.

The 76-year-old was sentenced at Shrewsbury Crown Court – sitting at Telford Justice Centre – on Monday after previously admitting six charges of fraud by false representation.

The court heard that Marsh, of Pinkham, Cleobury Mortimer, had been taken in 'hook, line and sinker' by an online fraudster calling herself 'Jessica Hoffman'.

'Jessica' had convinced Marsh that the pair were in a relationship before asking him for thousands of pounds to help her gain access to her "rightful inheritance".

At one point Marsh had become suspicious of 'Jessica's' motivations and discovered a separate online account seemingly featuring the same woman involved in pornography.

But Alice Aubrey-Fletcher, prosecuting, explained he had accepted the fraudster's claim that the profile instead belonged to her "evil twin sister".

The court was told that as Marsh's own finances were bled dry he then concocted an elaborate story which he used to persuade two female friends to hand over their own money – so he could continue paying 'Jessica'.

Judge Recorder Christopher Millington said he accepted Marsh's crimes had not been motivated by personal gain, and was told that his victims had been paid back entirely after his bank reimbursed him for the funds he gave to his scammer.

But Ms Aubrey-Fletcher had explained how one victim had to release equity in her own home following the fraud, while both victims had in turn borrowed money from friends to hand over to Marsh.

The court heard that in summer 2022 he had started talking to the pair about a device he had invented which would improve the efficiency of engines used by cars racing in the glamorous Formula 1 championship.

He told both women that he was selling the design to an American company for £1m.

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