'A grotesque lie': Leeds fraudster lied about her sister's death to con vulnerable woman out of £4,000 to 'pay for funeral'

A fraudster lied to a vulnerable woman about her sister's death to trick her into giving her £4,000 to pay for a funeral.

Debbie Julie Pike instead spent the money on a holiday for herself, paid off credit card bills and never returned the cash.

A Judge told 57-year-old Pike she had told a "grotesque lie" when she appeared before Leeds Crown Court.

Abdul Shakoor, prosecuting, said the victim is a vulnerable woman who struggles to read and write and was suffering from depression after the death of her husband.

Leeds Crown Court

Pike got to know the victim after befriending her son, who suffers from a disability.

In April 2018 she told the victim she was struggling to afford to pay for the insurance on her car and broke down crying in front of her.

Mr Shakoor said the victim agreed to lend Pike £300 so she could insure the car.

The defendant promised to pay back the money by the end of July of that year.

But in June, Pike approached the victim again and told her that her sister had died.

Pike claimed she needed £4,000 to pay for the funeral.

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The prosecutor said: "She was unsure what to do but agreed to lend her the money."

Pike drove the victim and her son to the Santander bank branch on Briggate, in Leeds city centre, where staff refused to hand over money unless the woman could produce identity documents.

Pike then drove her home to collect her passport and a utility bill before returning her to the bank to collect the cash.

The court heard Pike "snatched" the cash from her before going to a post office to pay the money into her own account.

The defendant then made repeated excuses about why she was unable to pay the victim back.

She told the woman she was going to sell her jewellery to get the money back but never did.

The victim told her social worker about what had happened and police were informed.

Pike's bank statements were checked and there was no evidence of her paying for a funeral.

Payments had instead been made to credit card accounts and a sum of £1,110 had been spent on paying for a holiday.

Checks also revealed that Pike had two sisters and neither of them had died.

Pike, of Inglewood Place, Seacroft, pleaded guilty to fraud.

The victim provided a statement to the court.

She said: "When Debbie did this to me I was so distressed and upset.

"I have suffered with my mental health since my partner died.

"I felt stupid for believing her and if I had not had the support of carers I do not know what I would have done.

"I am owed a lot of money back. I really want it but I don't think I will ever see it.

"I have learned a lesson.

"I don't think I will ever be able to trust anyone anymore."

The court heard Pike has previous convictions for dishonesty offences.

Ken Green, mitigating, said Pike's last conviction was in 1997.

He said: "This is a very mean offence and the defendant should feel thoroughly ashamed of herself for her conduct."

Pike appeared in court in a wheelchair.

Mr Green told the court how his client had significant health problems.

The barrister urged Recorder Nicholas Lumley QC to impose a suspended sentence to give Pike the opportunity to pay back the money.

He added: "She told me that she just wants to put this behind her and to pay back the money that she owes."

Pike was given an 18-month prison sentence, suspended for two years.

She was also ordered to pay £4,000 compensation to the victim, at a rate of £200 per month.

Pike must also complete 20 rehabilitation activity requirement days.

Recorder Lumley said: "You committed the meanest of criminal offences.

"You chose to prey upon a very vulnerable victim.

"You took a lot of money from her to begin with and when you got away with it you decided to push your luck.

"It was a grotesque lie.

"You went with her to the bank and as soon as the £4,000 was in her hands you swiftly took it from her grasp.

"You had no intention of paying the money back. You told her yet more lies.

"More than a quarter of it had been spent on a holiday for yourself. That was an act of pure selfish greed.

"If you fail to make repayments, the consequences will be severe."