Brother swindled out of inheritance


Published: Friday 24th October 2014 by The News Editor

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A husband who swindled his brother out of a share of a £1.5 million inheritance after his parents died has been jailed for four years and four months.

Peter Howes, 53, of Lechlade, Gloucestershire, forged the signatures of his mother Joyce, 81, or elder brother Jonathan, 55, to wind up trust funds before pocketing the contents.

He also cashed in two life insurance policies worth £100,000 and kept the money without telling his brother, an experienced lawyer who lives in Singapore.

The £1 million proceeds of the sale of his mother’s home were also siphoned off by Howes, and he invested money in an online gambling company.

Mr Howes’ brother discovered the fraud in 2011, two years after Mrs Howes death on November 2 2010, when he checked her bank account and found just £350 left.

Howes was arrested and later charged with five counts of fraud, which he denied, but was convicted of following a three-week trial at Bristol Crown Court.

Recorder James Watson QC told Howes, who had no previous convictions, his actions had amounted to “exploitation” of his mother’s assets.

“The investments had started at over £1.5 million in 2004, by the time of your mother’s death they had declined to the point that £350 remained in her bank account,” the judge said.

“Any remaining cash was swiftly moved by you into your own bank account and used for a number of investments for your own benefit, which proved to be failures.

“On one level, this case can be viewed as a breach of trust towards your mother, carried out in a cynical and meticulous manner to siphon off her assets and cheat your brother of his inheritance.

“I am persuaded that your motive was driven by intense personal pressure, blunt pride and an inability of the outside world learning about your failure.”

The judge said Howes’ mother had not been aware of his dishonesty and he had cared for her when her health deteriorated until her death.

Howes’ wife Jane, 51, who was acquitted of a single charge of fraud at the trial, supported her husband in the public gallery.

During the trial, jurors heard the Howes’ estate – built up mainly by the “hard work” of father Thomas – should have been split equally between the two brothers.

But instead, financially struggling Howes transferred cash into a joint account between himself and his mother, then moved it into a sole account in his name.

The cash was handed to former partners and used to buy a 40% stake in an online gambling company set up by a relative of his wife, which later failed.

Prosecuting, Ed Burgess said: “The inheritance should have been shared equally between Mrs Joyce Howes’ two sons.

“It had been built up particularly through her husband’s lifetime through hard work on his part. Had the defendant’s actions been known to her the effect would have been considerable.”

Mr Burgess said Mrs Howes would “simply not have condoned” investments made with her money by her son.

In a victim impact statement, Jonathan Howes said his brother’s actions had left a “profound” impact on the family.

“It would have broken dad’s heart to see what happened to his sons, the money he left behind and what happened to mum,” he said.

“My parents wanted nothing more than for their money to go to their grandchildren, particularly for their education.

“What Peter did was inexcusable in any event but what I found disturbing is the stupid and frivolous way the estate my father worked so hard for was spent.”

Mr Howes said it was a “sad day” when his brother was convicted but that it meant the family could finally move on from his actions.

Representing Howes, Vivek D’Cruz said his client – a “kind, patient, dutiful and caring” son – accepted and apologised for what he had done.

Mr D’Cruz said Howes only used the money, which he would one day be entitled to half of, in desperation as his businesses failed in the recession.

“His fortune was washed away in the tsunami of the financial crisis,” Mr D’Cruz said. “What happened to him happened to hundreds of millions of innocent victims in exactly the same way.

“It was because of the extreme financial pressure he was placed under that he carried out these dishonest acts.”

A Proceeds of Crime hearing to recover the estate from assets held by Howes will be held next March.

Published: Friday 24th October 2014 by The News Editor

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