One of Britain’s leading estate agents has told how he ‘smelled a rat’ when a conman posing as a wealthy banker tried to buy a £2 million home.
Former cab driver Richard Jerome posed as an international financier as he tried to buy luxury homes at Sidmouth, Looe, and Northamptonshire.
He made an offer for £1,975,000 for a £2 million home under a false name after a series of viewings with his ex-teacher wife Hazel.
The 65-year-old told owners Simon and Clare Martin-Redmond-Smith they were looking for a permanent home in Britain after winding down business interests in the Caribbean.
His offer for Badby Lodge at Badby, Daventry, was their second attempt to buy a home in the area, having previously offered £560,000 for an 18th century four bedroomed period cottage called Ambleside at Hellidon, Daventry.
Jerome used false surnames in both transactions to conceal the fact he is a convicted conman, Exeter Crown Court was told.
He claimed to be a banker with links to the charity Unesco and interests in Russia and the West Indies and Russia.
They also tried to buy The Gazebo in Sidmouth, for £750,000 and £310,000 for Valhalla in East Looe.
On all four occasions Jerome and his wife were foiled when estate agents learned their true identities.
They have both been convicted in the past of a scam in which they pose as buyers, move in before completion, and refuse to budge.
The couple also tried to buy two properties in Devon and Cornwall with a total value of £1 million.
Exeter Crown Court has heard how they offered a string of excuses to explain why they did not have the money.
They included claims they were on holiday in the Caribbean and unable to pick up e-mails, having problems with their bank in Calgary , Canada , on business in St Petersburg , Turkmenistan and Minsk , and caring for sick relatives in hospital.
He also claimed to be a banker handling huge sums of money for the relief organisation Unesco.
Jerome also persuaded a woman who answered a lonely hearts advertisement to invest $100,000 in a bond which he claimed would pay a high rate of interest. She allegedly received nothing.
Quentin Jackson-Stops, a member of the founding family of the blue blooded estate agents Jackson-Stops and Staff, said he was suspicious about Jerome before learning his true identity.
He made his offer under the name of Jerane, although is was recorded a Jaerane and Jairane in other paperwork.
Mr Jackson-Stops said he warned the owner of Badby Lodge to be cautious about the offer.
He said:”Mr Jarane said he planned to install a swimming pool at the house and said the money for the purchase would be routed through an offshore company to save tax.
“He said he was also viewing properties with Knight Frank, and Savills, with prices up to £4 million. He made an offer.
“I think I smelled a rat even before I heard about their past. I had googled his name and could not find anyone anywhere with that name. I told the owner that if the offer came to anything I would eat my hat.”
Former minicab driver Richard Jerome, aged 65, and ex primary school teacher Hazel, aged 62, of Watling Street, Towcester, are both accused making false representations that they had the funds to purchase Valhalla, in West Looe Hill, Looe, and Gazebo, in Peak Hill Road, Sidmouth between 2009 and 2011.
They also face three charges of obtaining more than £1,000 worth of surveys on the properties by deception.
The couple deny two more counts of fraud which allege they made false representations that they intended to purchase Ambleside House and Badby Lodge Farm, both near Northampton , between 2010 and 2011.
Jerome is accused of fraud against a woman in Northamptonshire who invested $100,000 in 2011 and has not been repaid.