News Business Crime & Financial Services 8th Aug 2019

Gudrun Young Leading Sophia Dower Represent “Career Conman” Mark Acklom in Romance Fraud

Gudrun Young leading Sophia Dower were instructed to represent Mark Acklom at his trial before Bristol Crown Court where he faced 20 counts of fraud and money laundering offences. As a result of these allegations, Mr Acklom was named in the National Crime Agency’s “Top 10 Most Wanted List” which created what can only be described as a media storm around the proceedings.

The case concerned a so called “romance fraud” dating back to 2012 where it was alleged that Mr Acklom made a number of false representations to divorcee Carolyn Woods which resulted in her willingly transferring all of her life savings to Mr Acklom, in the region of £750,000. As well as false representations including that he worked as a spy for MI6, Mr Acklom had also represented to Ms Woods that he was single and therefore free to marry her. The reality was that Mr Acklom was married with two children and had Ms Woods known this fact, she would not have engaged in the relationship with him and would never have transferred the money had she been aware of the true circumstances.

Mr Acklom fled to Spain with his family which resulted in a European Arrest Warrant being issued for his arrest and him being named in the Top 10 Most Wanted list across Europe. He was not arrested until June 2018 and was extradited to the UK in February 2019 to face trial for the fraud against Ms Woods.

From the outset, the Crown’s case had always been that Mr Acklom had planned the offence and deliberately targeted Ms Woods because he knew she was a woman of significant means. However on the first day of trial and despite the strength of the evidence, successful representations were made by the Defence and a basis of plea was put forward which significantly reduced Mr Acklom’s level of criminality. The Crown accepted the basis of plea in all material respects, including that Ms Woods was not targeted, the offence was not pre-planned and the relationship was genuine at the beginning. The Crown also agreed to reduce the total value of the fraud to £300,000 – less than half the original amount. In light of these concessions, Mr Acklom pleaded guilty to only 5 counts of fraud by false representation to the value of £300,000 on the agreed basis and the remaining 15 counts were left to lie on the file. Mr Acklom was sentenced to 5 years and 8 months imprisonment.

Mr Acklom has earned himself the title in the media as being a “career conman” having had a string of previous convictions for other fraud offences dating back to his youth. In 1991 when still a schoolboy, he was convicted of fraud by stealing his father’s credit card to hire private jets to take him and his friends around Europe. He was also convicted of fraud having successfully persuaded a building society to give him a mortgage by posing as a wealthy banker despite still being a teenager.

Gudrun Young and Sophia Dower were instructed by Dennis Clarke of Clarke Kiernan Solicitors.

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