A FRAUDSTER who swindled £55,000 out of local residents before running away to Thailand has been jailed.
Paul Ridden, 58, pleaded guilty to a string of offences – including six of fraud by false representation, four of theft and one of obtaining property by deception – when he appeared in court earlier this year.
His crimes took place in 2009 and 2010 but he was not arrested until October, when he was deported back to the UK after being seized by police on the run in Thailand after a lengthy investigation by Sussex Police and Serious Organised Crime Agency.
Ridden, who has no fixed address here in Eastbourne but is formerly of Mallard Close was taken into custody as soon as he stepped off the plane at Heathrow.
Lewes Crown Court heard that Ridden had got into the property game in 2008 when he rented a Victorian house and then sub-let it. He went on to build up an empire – letting 40 properties to 100 tenants across Eastbourne.
However, cash flow problems saw him contact police in September last year to admit that he had been showing people round homes and taking deposits from them despite knowing deals had already been struck with other people..
He was released on bail and admitted to the DGH with depression.
However, while in hospital, he conned £300 from a woman with mental health problems and £400 from a man to whom he had promised to sell a television.
Ridden also tricked another woman with mental health problems out of £35,000 and failed to a £3,000 bill at the Cavendish Hotel in Grand Parade.
With the net closing in on his deceit, the 58-year-old fled the UK only to be arrested in Thailand after an ex-pat told local police that Ridden had cheated him out of 75,000 baht, around £1,500. And, during sentencing, the court heard that Ridden also had 38 other cases of frauds dating back to 1990.
Having told Ridden he was going to prison, Judge Anthony Niblett said, “You are a professional confidence trickster. The only word to describe these offences is despicable. The public and particularly the vulnerable need to be protected from you for a long time.”
Ridden will face no charges in Thailand relating to the alleged fraud, although Lt Col Boonlert Onklang, duty officer at Chalong Police Station, revealed he was fined 5,000 baht after overstaying his permit-to-stay in Thailand.