A convicted fraudster conned a Norfolk woman out of about £300,000 and then proceeded to spend most of it in just eight months, a court heard.

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John Drewe, 63, faces 10 charges of fraud and theft and his wife Helen, 61, faces one charge of money laundering. Both have denied the charges.

Prosecutor William Carter told Norwich Crown Court yesterdaythat Drewe carried out a “systematic and wholesale fraud” on Jeanne Du Feu, who has lived since 2005 in Cranwich, near Thetford.

He said that Drewe used the proceeds from the sale of her house, about £240,000, to buy himself a new £24,000 Jaguar XKR, a car for his daughter and to pay off his son’s rent arrears.

Drewe was finally caught when one of his victim’s friends looked his name up on the internet and found his past record, Mr Carter said.

This revealed that Drewe was convicted in 1999 of conspiracy to defraud, forgery, and theft. He had conspired with an artist to sell his works as if they were painted by old masters.

Mr Carter told the court that Drewe had defrauded Miss Du Feu of about £300,000 between September 2006 and June 2008.

He said: “During that time he obtained nearly £50000 from her bank account, by claiming the money was for fees, legal expenses and was genuine. The money was withdrawn from her account, and then paid into the Drewes’ bank accounts at Barclay’s branches in Downham Market and Brandon, and then transferred into their joint account, from which they withdrew it and spent it.

“But that was not the only way he defrauded her. Miss Du Feu was the owner of two properties. She lived at a house in Charlton, south London, with her partner David Greenwood, who has since died.

“When her mother died, she left her some money, so she bought a property near Thetford, where she and Mr Greenwood went to live.

“Drewe sold her house in Charlton and told her he was putting the proceeds into an offshore bank in Liechtenstein where it would be invested. But in fact the proceeds of the sale, about £240,000, was deposited in the Drewes’ joint account.

“It went on a Jaguar for Drewe, a car for his daughter, and rent arrears his son owed on a property in north London.

“The £240000 was spent in its entirety in just eight months. When the money was gone Drewe reverted to the previous method of taking her money.”

By this time Miss Du Feu was struggling for money and Drewe asked her if she could borrow money from a friend.

Drewe subsequently targeted her friend Elizabeth Ashton-Edwards, who has since died, and stole about £5000 from her, as she had believed she was helping her friend.

Mr Carter said Mrs Drewe faced one charge of money laundering in that about £48,000 was transferred from the defendants’ joint account into her account in May 2007, which the prosecution said was part of the proceeds from the sale of the Charlton house.

Mr Carter also said that Miss Du Feu had been persuaded by Drewe to transfer the title of the property in Cranwich, known as the Old Bottle House, to a company set up by Drewe in 2001, called Energy Resources Group Ltd. But Mr Carter said that the company never traded and had no assets.

Drewe tried to raise money on the security of the Cranwich property, valued at about £435,000, but in the meantime one of Ms Du Feu’s friends had grown suspicious, and had investigated Drewe on the web. Drewe and his wife were arrested at their home in Reigate, Surrey in 2009.

The court heard that Miss Du Feu, a retired music teacher, had suffered a neurological disorder in her 20s, and she was admitted to Addenbrooke’s hospital in Cambridge in 2007, while the fraud was ongoing, to have an operation on her brain, which had slowed down.

Drewe said in interview he was a physicist and the money had paid for equipment for his workshop and towards a project that Mr Greenwood had wanted to get involved in.

Mr Carter said Drewe’s part in the art fraud that he was convicted for in 1999 had been to provide the fake history for the painter’s works. He had altered the ledger of a major art gallery by going to its archives and removing a page from the catalogue, and inserting a false page.

The trial continues.

david.bale2@archant.co.uk

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