CONMAN Andrew Griffin has been handed a four-year prison sentence for an “astonishing” £270,000 fraud, despite being on the run from police after he was released from court on bail.
The 44-year-old from Wantage pretended to work for multinational companies to trick small firms into delivering him high-value goods, including racing bikes, televisions and hand-crafted bronze sculptures.
And it was revealed yesterday that Griffin was granted bail by Oxford magistrates despite having run off to Spain for six months in 2011 to escape a previous fraud investigation.
Jailing him in his absence at Oxford Crown Court yesterday, Judge Mary Jane Mowat described him as “a particularly calculated and manipulative conman” who damaged numerous firms and caused one company to go out of business.
Police said the former company director even drew up a wish list of purchases for the future, which featured liposuction, laser eye surgery and a hair transplant.
John Law, prosecuting, said Griffin, of Market Place, Wantage, pleaded guilty to 17 counts of fraud, after posing as an employee from pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline and telecoms company BT.
Mr Law said he set up fake email addresses, websites and bank accounts, while disguising his computer’s IP address and making calls away from his home on pay-as-you-go mobiles to avoid detection.
The barrister said he used “charm and persistence” to convince firms to deliver goods by courier to locations where he would pick them up.
He targeted firms across the UK, including Evans Cycles, Canvas Wimbledon Limited, Kings Audio Visual, Park Cameras, Stanley Productions, Viewdata and CCK Media Technologies.
Mr Law also said Griffin received a 16-month prison sentence in 2011 for defrauding HSBC of £741,620 when he was a director of Delfi Communications in Slough.
The barrister said on that occasion the left the country when he believed he was about to be arrested, spending six months in Spain before handing himself in to the police.
When asked if he had received any information about Griffin's current whereabouts, defence barrister Adrian Amer told Judge Mowat: “Not a dicky bird.”
He added that his client had got into debt, which led to him spinning “an elaborate web of fraud and deception"”
Judge Mowat said it was a possibility Griffin had once again absconded to Spain. She said: “This was an astonishing case of fraud by a particularly calculated and manipulative conman, who has decided upon pleading guilty to go on the run.
“It is almost rather sad when someone with this kind of intelligence and ingenuity puts it to a dishonest use, rather than a legitimate career.
“What he did had a disastrous effect on his victims, and one small business went out of business as a result.”
Acting as a BT representative Griffin conned Banbury firm Digital Garage into delivering £15,000 worth of computer equipment to libraries in Berkshire where he arranged to pick them up.
Managing director Mike Whelan said he even checked with the libraries to make sure they were expecting the deliveries, adding: “It did seem to check out.”
He said: “(Griffin) even rang afterwards to thank us for our great service. When they had him in the dock they should have sentenced him. What did they think he was going to do?
“It is just so frustrating that he is still out there. Somebody ought to be held to account for that.”
Sculptor David Goode, 47, from Iffley, was tricked by Griffin into sending him a £15,000 piece of art.
He said the conman pretended to want the bronze sculpture for a GlaxoSmithKline entertainment event, adding: “It all seemed pretty plausible. In a way being forced to go on the run and having to look over your shoulder all the time is a punishment.”
Asked why Griffin was granted bail throughout proceedings, a spokeswoman for CPS Thames and Chiltern said: “The defendant had been on bail since being charged, was complying with the terms of his curfew, had attended all hearings up to and including his plea and case management hearing, and had pleaded guilty to all counts at that hearing.
“Therefore, there were no grounds for remanding him, so no such application was made and the case was adjourned for sentence.”
Investigating officer Pc Andy Robinson said: “As far as we know Andrew Griffin has no legitimate means of income, so we believe he may still be carrying out similar frauds.
“We urge businesses to be on the lookout for anyone approaching them in similar circumstances.”
- November 12, 2012, to March 20, 2013: Andrew Griffin commits 17 counts of fraud.
- March 20, 2013: Police arrest Griffin at his home in Wantage.
- March 21, 2013: Griffin appears at Oxford Magistrates’ Court and is granted bail.
- May 22, 2013: Griffin pleads guilty to six counts of fraud, committed at the end of 2012, at Oxford Crown Court.
- June 14, 2013: Pleads guilty to another 11 counts of fraud committed up to March 2013. Told he faces a “custodial sentence” and is released on bail by a judge in Oxford Crown Court for a pre-sentence report to be prepared. This is last time police or his lawyers had contact with him.