AN “evil” fraudster who pretended she had cancer as she fleeced a lonely West Cumbria widower out of almost £80,000 has been jailed.
Gambling addict Phyllis Woods, 67, also pinched precious family heirloom jewellery from the pensioner after they met through an online dating website in October, 2017.
Carlisle Crown Court was told today (FRI) how Woods quickly began to manipulate the man – aged in his early 70s – while he believed he was in a loving relationship with her. Prosecutor Brendan Burke said: “What in fact was happening was he was being targeted as a source of funding for her gambling-addicted and lavish lifestyle.”
Woods falsely claimed her accounts were frozen during expensive United States divorce litigation. In response, the man gave her large sums of cash for imaginary legal bills, clothing, pretend holidays and even non-existent cancer care as she “invented a fictitious course of treatment at a private hospital”. Much of the money was squandered in casinos.
“Payments then accelerated for the fictitious cancer treatment when she told him she was about to lose her place at the hospital. Effectively he was being asked to pay up or face the prospect of her dying,” said Mr Burke.
After suspicions were raised, police were alerted and the man also noted sentimental jewellery was missing from his home. Even after being charged and with a court date looming, Woods sent the man a chilling and threatening note warning him to “drop the charges” in a bid to “terrorise him out of supporting a prosecution against her”.
Woods, of Smithills Croft Road, Bolton, admitted three fraud charges, stealing two watches and witness intimidation.
In an impact statement, the man described himself as “devastated”. “I was completely taken in by this woman and wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. I took her at face value and thought we had something nice together.” He added: “What she has done is evil.”
Described as being “deeply apologetic” and “very sorry for her actions”, Woods was jailed for 40 months.
Judge Nicholas Barker said of the victim: “You have blighted his remaining years. You have manipulated him. You have exploited him and you have sought to bleed him dry of all which he had honestly and fairly obtained.” He added: “Your deception knows no bounds, Phyllis Woods.”