Two Scarborough women made to pay by confiscation for 'wicked' fraud of Whitby victim - but it's a fraction of their ill-gotten gains

Two Scarborough women who defrauded a holiday-park owner out of at least a quarter of a million pounds have been hit with financial-confiscation orders - but which amount to only a fraction of their ill-gotten gains.

By Court Reporter
Friday, 27th December 2019, 9:52 am
Updated Friday, 27th December 2019, 9:53 am

Elizabeth Hill, aka Johnson, 68, and Machele Farrar, 60, were jailed for four years and three-and-a-half-years respectively in December last year.

They were each found guilty of two counts of fraud by abuse of position following a trial at York Crown Court.

The victim, Fiona Rhodes, 54, died a short time after the police investigation began.

Sign up to our daily The Scarborough News Today newsletter

Machele Farrar and Elizabeth Hill, aka Johnson

The fraud, described as “despicable and wicked dishonesty”, amounted to more than £250,000.

They had conned their ‘friend’ in a “callous, calculating, cruel and deeply dishonest” way and turned Ms Rhodes’s financially-sound caravan-park business into their own personal “cash cow”.

Ms Rhodes had been running the Sandfield Caravan Park in Whitby with a turnover of about half a million pounds when Hill and Farrar began defrauding her.

Due to personal issues, Ms Rhodes had struggled to cope with the management and financial side of the business and in 2013 she was contacted “out of the blue” by Hill, originally from Liverpool, who offered to help reduce the business’s utility bills.

The two women ended up defrauding the business out of at least £200,000 and used Ms Rhodes as their own “personal cash cow”.

Hill, of West Square, offered her services for “free” and also helped generally around the site.

Within two years, she had introduced her friend, Farrar, who offered to help Ms Rhodes with the payroll and accounting side of the business. Neither of them had any formal qualifications in the work they were offering.

In 2015, the site manager became concerned after noticing large sums of money were being taken from the business account, leaving insufficient funds to pay bills. He reported his concerns to Ms Rhodes and her accountant.

Following an analysis of the bank accounts by the accountant, it became clear that a “significant” amount of “unaccounted” money had been taken from Ms Rhodes’s business account.

About £256,000 was transferred from the business account into Farrar’s own account and Hill, who had a gambling problem, banked cheques worth £65,951.

While some of it was used to pay staff wages and company bills, it was found that Farrar stole £51,548, laundered £84,131 and that Hill stole £150,062.

Both denied the allegations. Farrar claimed she only took what she was entitled to and was “guided” by Hill, who claimed she took the money for services “rendered”, but admitted she sometimes took more than she was entitled to and gave herself extra in the form of a bonus.

Although both submitted extortionate invoices for their services that did not reflect the work carried out, a significant proportion of the money taken from the business remained unaccounted for.

Following the fraud trial in December 2018, Johnson was jailed for four years and Farrar, of Manor Road, was jailed for three years and six months.

This month the two women appeared for a financial-confiscation hearing – Farrar by video link from Askham Grange prison where she is serving the fraud sentence.

Due to extenuating financial reasons, Farrar was made to repay £946 from the £140,691 she defrauded from Ms Rhodes.

Farrar is due to be released from prison in May next year.

Her defence counsel Jeremy Barton said that upon release she would try to sell her car as an asset towards repaying the sum. Failure to do so will result in a one-month prison sentence.

Hill, who was addicted to online gambling sites, was ordered to repay over £943.

Detective Constable Mark Butcher, of North Yorkshire Police’s Economic Crime Unit, said: “Farrar and Hill preyed on a vulnerable victim in the late Fiona Rhodes, taking advantage of her inability to run her own business without assistance.

“They betrayed her trust through dishonest and deliberate money transfers from the business to their own bank accounts in order to fund their own lifestyles, with the majority of the money being gambled away through Hill’s online gambling addiction.”