BMW-driving ‘scheming’ grandmother jailed for £216,000 credit card fraud

Florence Spencer from Norwich, who has been jailed for cheating banks and credit card companies out

Florence Spencer from Norwich, who has been jailed for cheating banks and credit card companies out out £216,000. Picture: Cheshire Constabulary. - Credit: Archant

A grandmother cheated credit card companies and banks out of more than £216,000 by brazenly using an array of different aliases.

The Queen Elizabeth II Law Courts. Picture: Hutchins

The Queen Elizabeth II Law Courts. Picture: Hutchins - Credit: Hutchins

BMW-driving Florence Spencer, of Sukey Way, Bowthorpe, near Norwich, carried on her arrogant campaign of deception after her arrest and while on bail obtained 15 more credit cards in three different names and continued to rack up debts.

Jailing the 70-year-old pensioner, a judge said: “For more than 15 years you have shown yourself to be an intelligent, articulate and successful fraudster.”

Judge Denis Watson said: “Quite simply fraud became your occupation and was your way of life.”

He said that when her home was searched in November 2015, a total of 32 credit, debit and store cards, 11 of them in her handbag, were found. It was also discovered she had a comprehensive card index system with the relevant passwords and pin numbers in the various false names.

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She also had seven mobile phones, three of them with details of the bogus account holders taped on the back.

They “were indicators of how well planned, carefully thought out and how sophisticated this offending was for you,” he said. “You needed this detailed card index system for you to keep track of your own lies.”

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He said that after her arrest and while on bail “what followed was a breathtaking set of lies to credit card companies so you could carry on with fraud.”

She cunningly realised that the seized cards would be locked away by police and so she contacted credit card companies pretending she had lost them or they had been stolen and got replacement ones.

The judge told the defendant, who had changed her name by deed poll from Ann Silkstone, that a psychiatric report concluded: “She lives in a world of self-deception and deception of others.”

Judge Watson said that the money fraudulently obtained was not just for “short term or day to day activities, it was used to fund long term objectives and benefits” such as a saving policy, refurbishing property and the purchase of Premium Bonds.

Spencer initially appeared in the dock with her two sons, Aaron and Dean Gill and daughter-in-law Stephanie Gill - who have already been sentenced for their fraudulent actives - and she pleaded not guilty to the allegations back in 2017 but earlier this year admitted two fraud conspiracies and two other fraud counts.

Spencer has now been jailed for 43 months and faces a Proceeds of Crime hearing at a later date to claw back some of her ill-gotten gains. Other fraud and money laundering charges she faced were dropped.

James Rae, prosecuting, told Liverpool Crown Court, “It is the Crown’s submission that what the evidence shows is far from a poor old lady with medical problems who suffers from an addiction to credit cards but rather a devious and thoroughly dishonest, scheming individual who is unabashed by any attempts to frustrate her acquisitive greed who has also made an art form out of misleading members of the medical profession.”

The court heard that despite receiving rental income from two addresses she had “done up” using her illegal funds she received housing benefit and also claimed benefits citing mobility problems - though CCTV footage showed her walking unaided. She has not been prosecuted for the alleged benefit frauds.

Mr Rae said that the offending behaviour of her and her family first came to light in July 2014 when suspicions were aroused about a money transfer to an account held in the name of Chester woman Stephanie Gill, to buy a property in Florida.

The ensuing investigation “opened up a spider’s web of financial transactions covering a very wide variety of fraudulent events.”

She acquired a £14,000 BMW in December 2015 which was paid for on two credit cards in false names and of the £216,720 credit card debt she admits responsibility for £51,860 of it accrued on new cards in just 11 weeks after her arrest.

Defence barrister Rob Lancaster said that Spencer, who has previous convictions for dishonesty, had pleaded guilty. She has health problems including arthritis leading to mobility issues and prison, particularly with the current pandemic, will be difficult for her.

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