September 29th, 2016

Fantasist conman posed as F1 chief – court told

Fantasist conman posed as F1 chief – court told Fantasist conman posed as F1 chief – court told

A FANTASIST posed as the chief operations officer of the Mercedes Benz Formula One racing team to run up hundreds of pounds worth of bills at hotels in Warwickshire and Worcestershire.

Convicted district conman Stuart Howatson also used the same false identity in arrangements to purchase computer software and systems costing hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Howatson, of Fisher Road, Bishops Itchington, had pleaded guilty at Warwick Crown Court to a total of 12 charges of fraud and one of theft.

Nine of them related to 37 year-old Howatson posing as the chief operations officer with the Mercedes Benz F1 Racing Team to obtain £2,785 worth of accommodation and food at hotels in Leamington, Kidderminster and Bewdley between January and June 2014.

He also stole £1,500 from a man he had met, again after posing as the F1 team’s operations officer.

And in three further frauds committed between May and December 2014, by claiming to be the chief operations officer with the Mercedes Benz team he obtained computer security systems worth £224,408 and computer software systems costing 23,904 euros, as well as agreeing to purchase $1.1m worth of computer web security systems.         

But on the day he was due to be sentenced Howatson failed to attend, despite having turned up the previous day when the case had to be adjourned because of a lack of court time to deal with it.

His solicitor Nick Devine explained: “Mr Howatson has been admitted to hospital. He was taken there by paramedics who were called to the house.

“I have received a call from his mum to confirm he has been admitted to Warwick Hospital and is waiting to be seen.

“From what I can gather, it would appear he was suicidal, with all that that entails.”

Adjourning the case for more information to be obtained, Judge Alan Parker observed Howatson would not have been admitted before being seen by a doctor.

And he commented: “My provisional view, knowing what I now know about him, is that he’s just engaging in a process of trying to avoid the outcome.”

Howatson had been described as ‘a common trickster and a conman’ by a judge at Hereford Crown Court who jailed him in 2010 for conning a couple into letting him stay at their villa in Spain on the pretence that he had the funds to purchase it.

During that hearing it emerged he had convinced friends and family, including his wife, that he was a Metropolitan Police officer who had served in the Royal Protection Squad.

He even had a place at his wedding reception for the former Met chief constable Sir John Stevens – only to then tell guests Sir John had been unable to attend for security reasons.

When the current case resumed during the afternoon, Mr Devine said: “The only information I have is that he has now been admitted.

“I understand the mental health team is being gathered to go and see him.  I think it’s unlikely we’re going to get any definitive statement of affairs within the next couple of hours.”

Mr Devine referred to the case as having had ‘a chequered history,’ which the judge suggested was an apposite phrase, given the F1 link.

Adjourning the case for a week for Howatson to attend, Judge Parker said he would not issue a warrant for his arrest, but required him to attend for the next hearing.

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