A CONMAN who drove businesspeople to the brink of ruin, stealing their property, demolishing buildings and illegally repossessing land, told a judge he “lied and cheated” his way through life.
Richard Elliott-Matthews staged a series of audacious frauds, bouncing cheques and forging paperwork to seize illegal possession of property across South Yorkshire.
His fake repossessions were so believable even a policeman was convinced he was genuine, and he almost talked a grieving son into handing over the keys to his dead father’s estate.
The 55-year-old admitted in court: “I have lied, cheated and conned my way through life.”
Judge Jacqueline Davies told him: “Perhaps that is the only truthful statement you have made for some time. You are a thoroughly dishonest individual and I have no alternative but to impose a sentence of some length.”
One man lost his business entirely, and others were nearly tricked out of tens of thousands by the devious conman’s schemes. Today Elliott-Matthews, who has a criminal record stretching back to 1977, was waking up to another four years in jail.
His own defence barrister, Kath Goddard, said: “He is clearly a man of some talent which, had it been properly channelled, would have served him well and been a benefit to the community.
“But he is nearly 56 and for him prison has become not his second home, but his first home.”
The trickster’s deceptions started when he recovered a chequebook from the old Hackenthorpe Social Club in Sheffield, and kept going even after he was initially arrested and bailed.
He used the chequebook to withdraw more than £1,600 from Cash Converters, and paid Sheffield employment agency Right4Staff for labourers to work on another of his dodgy scams. Both cheques later bounced.
In Rotherham he was caught red-handed stealing gates worth £1,500 from the derelict Goldthorpe Hotel, where he pretended to be working on behalf of the site owners.
But his most audacious con was at the GBL Storage in Marshgate, Doncaster, where he produced an official looking demolition order purporting to be from Doncaster Council. Elliott-Matthews and his team took possession of the industrial premises, hired skips paid for with a dud cheque found in a house clearance, and even convinced a police officer they were genuine contractors.
Gurdial Singh, prosecuting, told Doncaster Crown Court that Elliott-Matthews entered the Marshgate site and removed thousands of pounds’ worth of property - putting owner Chris Jones out of business and leaving him with a £5,000 clean-up bill.
Soon afterwards he targeted the site of the closed All-American Car Sales in Wakefield Road, Barnsley, where he produced another fake clearance order.
He told the owners - the sons of the deceased proprietor - he had authority to take £27,000 worth of property on behalf of Barnsley Council and even claimed the men owed a further £5,000.
“So convinced was the son that he gave him the key to the site, but his brother decided he was a conman and told him to have nothing to do with it,” said Mr Singh.
Elliott-Matthews carried on the pretence by contacting the police to tell them he had authority to enforce the bogus debt. He later told officers the site was a “goldmine” with up to £200,000 worth of scrap metal.
Mr Singh said Elliott-Matthews, of Anelay Road, Balby, Doncaster, boasted a criminal catalogue of 122 previous convictions, 78 for fraud.
He pleaded guilty to 17 offences of fraud, burglary and theft committed last summer and asked for three others to be considered.
Miss Goddard said Elliott-Matthews had spent most of his adult life in prison and had learned “criminal behaviour is the way to get by if all else fails”. She said criminal activity was “his default position”.
She said he got the idea of presenting false documents at derelict premises from letters he received about his own debts.