Former financial adviser Iain Sarvent has been jailed for three months and eight years after defrauding an elderly customer of the sum of £90,000. He pleaded guilty at Preston Crown Court to one theft charge and three fraud charges.

Mr Sarvent was an adviser at Barnsley-based Stonehaven Financial Services from October 2006 to October 2013.

He struck up a friendship with the unnamed 68 year old woman, persuading her to set up a joint bank account with him, and to give him power of attorney over her affairs. This meant he was able to avoid questioning from the bank about the sums he was withdrawing from the joint account and transferring to his own account.

Mr Sarvent used the funds to buy a BMW (although here £20,000 of the £26,000 purchase price was subsequently refunded to the woman), to set up an estate agency business with his wife and to pay for restaurants and holidays.

The woman also purchased Mr Sarvent’s parents home at £10,000 more than market value, after acting on his advice, before Mr Sarvent started living there rent free without her knowledge. She was also advised to make a number of property-based investments and took out a number of mortgages, mortgages she now needs to repay in her retirement. Mr Sarvent’s daughter was also able to live in a property at well below market rent as a result of her father’s dealings.

Referring to his debts of over £50,000, prosecuting counsel Nicholas Courtney said:

“Iain Sarvent was a man in a financial mess who was happy to let the woman fund his lifestyle, believing she could afford to do so and probably intending he could repay her one day.”
Defence barrister Sarah Smith said:
“He was deluded at the time in that he believed this was a genuine business plan and that it would succeed. He was desperate. He was a man who was in financial dire straits and was using the opportunity to access the funds. The business started legitimately but he understands he has completely destroyed the trust and friendship that was placed in him. He will never work in the financial sector again.”
Passing sentence, Judge Robert Altham said:

“These are mean and distasteful offences committed against a friend in breach of trust.”

The judge also pronounced:

“Part of the means you used to work your way into her trust is that you had acted as a financial adviser – someone she thought she could trust – but also a friend. Betrayal of a friend in this way is a particularly shameful sort of dishonesty. The hybrid of the two shows you to be an utterly cynical man.”

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