'His need to be popular and admired is paramount': Fraudster son jailed for fleecing his mum of £70,000 while working at family gift shop business in Chapel Allerton

A son who fleeced his mum's bank accounts of more than £70,000 while working for his family gift shop business in Leeds has been sent to prison.

By Tony Gardner
Thursday, 4th February 2021, 6:00 am

Richard Speight abused his trusted position by writing cheques to himself and set up a bank account in his mother's name in order to get access to her savings.

A court heard the 32-year-old has put his family home in jeopardy as his mother has been left unable to pay her mortgage as a result of the offending.

Speight traumatised his mum by his offending and also left her with a county court judgement against her name after he racked up debts on a company business card.

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Fraudster Richard Speight was jailed for 26 months

Leeds Crown Court heard heartbreaking details of the despair Speight had put his mum through as he was sent to prison for 26 months.

Speight pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud and two counts of theft spanning a five year period.

The prosecution said the value of Speight's offending was £70,575.

The offending took place while he was working for his mother's gift shop business, Angels Too, in Chapel Allerton.

Lucy Brown, prosecuting, said Speight's mother and father had two gift shops which they ran in the Leeds suburb.

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One of the shops was later closed and Speight continued to work with his mother at the remaining shop on Harrogate Road..

During the period of the offending the defendant lived at the family home rent-free and made no contribution to the family finances.

Speight's mother became aware of the offending in 2019.

He had been trusted to take a wage from the business takings but wrote cheques to himself by forging his mother's name.

Speight wrote 23 cheques to the value of £11,376.

Mrs Speight became aware of the offending after being contacted by her bank.

The court heard her son showed no remorse for what he had done and displayed little understanding of his behaviour.

Speight then went on to commit fraud by applying an online bank account in his mother's name.

His mum had hidden her banking passwords but Speight managed to find them.

He accessed her savings account and changed contact details on the account to his own.

Speight then set up a further account in his mother's name.

Money was transferred from the savings account to the new account before being transferred to an account in his own name.

He took £42,000 from the account between March and September 2019.

Speight had access to a business credit card which he used to rack up £11,500 of debt in his mother's name.

The victim described how her mental health had deteriorated as a result of the offending.

She eventually reported her son after her bank advised her to contact police.

The court heard it is unlikely that the bank will reimburse her for her losses.

She was left unable to pay her mortgage and is faced with the prospect of having her home repossessed.

The house has not yet been repossessed due to the pandemic and she may have to access an equity release scheme in order to stay in the property.

The mum was also left unable to buy stock for her business.

In a victim statement to the court Mrs Speight said her son had been stealing from her for many years.

She said: "I find it unbearable to think how much money he has taken from me.

The mum described how she could not "wash her hands" of her son despite what he had done and will continue to let him live with her when he released from custody.

She said: "I honestly believe that Richard could learn to function in society.

"But he has to be accountable for his actions.

"Whatever the outcome for him it has to lead to a better and more respectable life."

She added: "I will always be here for him."

Mrs Speight said her son obtained the money to "obtain superficial items that only bring short term happiness."

There was also the suggestion that he had a partner who might leave him if he did not provide him with valuable gifts.

She said she hoped her son will now be able to get psychiatric help to address his behaviour, adding: "I find it hard to accept that he is beyond help.

"He tells me he feels black inside and I do not know how to respond.

"He has many qualities and if they are channelled in a positive direction it might not be too late.

"I won't wash my hands of him."

The court heard Speight has no previous convictions but has a caution for a dishonesty offence dating back to 2009.

Speight, of Kingswood Drive, Moortown, pleaded guilty to the offences in November last year.

The court heard he then wrote cheques to himself a month later totalling £1,300.

Mrs Speight said: "He had no need of that money but his need to be popular and admired is paramount."

She said her son would have spent the money on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve "to impress his friends."

Michael Walsh, mitigating, said Speight pleaded guilty to the offences at an early stage and is sorry for his offending.

Mr Walsh said his client had a number of "complex issues" which needed to be addressed.

Sentencing Speight, Judge Penelope Belcher said: "She wants you to learn your lesson and show some remorse and get some help for what you have done.

"If this was not investigated she believes you would continue to steal from her and others in the future.

Describing the offending, Judge Belcher said: "I take the view that these are undoubtedly in the most serious category of offences given the significant impact of the offending and the significant period of time and the very obvious distress.

"She cannot repay her mortgage and has county court debts against her."