By Joshua Robinson –
Peter Grant Holbrook aged 75, who purported to be a Financial Advisor admitted to defrauding vulnerable clients of almost £1 million pounds, was sentenced on Monday 11th September at Bradford Crown Court and received a 5-year 3-month custodial sentence for offences under the Fraud Act 2006.
Peter Holbrook of Oxenhope, Keighley was investigated by West Yorkshire Trading Standards (WYTS) and was brought before the courts in March of this year.
Holbrook initially entered a ‘no indication plea’ before then appearing at Bradford Crown Court on 29th June, whereby he entered a ‘guilty’ plea to seven out of the eight counts on the indictment.
His offences spanned more than a decade, beginning in 2011 and involving eight victims and their families.
It has been established that Holbrook identified under the trading name of ‘PGH Associates and Will Associates’. He claims to have had an office in Leeds however, WYTS could find no record of this office.
Holbrook admitted defrauding £384,303 from Joan Dobson; £231,625 from Barbara Middleton; £150,000 from Christopher Hatton; £115,829 from Paul Tonks, Mandy Child and Suzanne Cropper; £58,773 from Pamela Chambers; £39,307 from Kathleen Bottomley and £20,000 from Marjorie Calvert.
Several complaints were received by West Yorkshire Trading Standards in relation to Peter Holbrook and his working practices. Holbrook used his profession and experience to skilfully deceive his victims, giving an impression of credibility and integrity to his work.
His victims were led to believe that he was carefully investing their money and handling their financial affairs with their best interests at the centre of what he was doing. However, this was not the case.
Following the death of a client’s spouse, Holbrook would offer to help the surviving person to ‘invest’ their estate or deal with all other financial aspects of probate during a particularly vulnerable time. He even suggested to one client that he will help them “hide the money to prevent any Care Home fees”.
Holbrook would then forge documents to make other clients believe his actions were genuine, highlighting the magnitude of effort Holbrook put in to defraud numerous vulnerable elderly individuals.
Following concerns raised by one family member, Holbrook was challenged about his actions, but he used various tactics to deflect their contact and subsequently ignored them. As a result, matters were reported to West Yorkshire Trading Standards. Through these enquiries, WYTS were able to identify further victims.
Holbrook admitted that he had not invested any of the identified victims’ money and he had in fact used it to fund his online gambling habit. Unfortunately, this pattern was apparent throughout all his victims, meaning that most had lost a substantial amount of money through trusting Holbrook.
In 2011, whilst arranging probate for a client, Holbrook offered to invest a substantial amount of the family member’s savings. In 2013, this same family contacted Holbrook to withdraw their investments and Holbrook ignored all contact. Instead, he weaved a web of lies, including that he had been to America to try and retrieve the allegedly invested money. To further his deceit Holbrook produced two letters from high street banks explaining the delays in the victims receiving their money. These letters were later established to be fraudulent. Eventually in 2017, Holbrook did pay this family a small proportion of their invested money back.
Holbrook’s offending continued and in January 2017, following the death of one of the victims’ husbands, she contacted Holbrook, and he organised meetings, declaring her as “being a wealthy woman”. He then began to consolidate the late husband’s money and investments, meanwhile he was using this money to fulfil his online gambling addiction.
In 2018, Holbrook was contacted by a gentleman’s family who had recently passed away to deal with probate, and in turn he took a substantial amount of money from this family and undersold the family home through an auction site.
In 2020, he began financially exploiting another victim who had recently been widowed, Holbrook was requested to carry out probate and will work only, however over a period of time, Holbrook befriended the victim and persuaded her to invest into “his client account”.
Enquiries have shown that this was in actual fact his own personal bank account. Holbrook again took a substantial amount of money from this victim and her late husband’s hard-earned savings and investments.
Holbrook was also contacted in 2020 by another victim who was recently widowed requesting a copy of her and her late husband’s will, Holbrook then encouraged the family to use him for probate, which they duly agreed to and in turn over a period of time, Holbrook systematically took a vast amount of money from this grieving widower to fund his gambling addiction. None of this money was ever returned to the victim.
Sadly, some of Holbrook’s victims have now passed away due to their age and vulnerabilities, however, their families have all provided Victim Impact Statements for the sentencing of Holbrook at court.
Some extracts include:
“they have lost faith and trust in people”, “they have suffered with sleep deprivation”, “…incredibly angry that their Mum’s money has been stolen”, “it is absolutely sickening what Holbrook has done “, “Holbrook committed a deliberate and callous act of deception”, “we have struggled with such a predatory and premeditated act by Holbrook”, “We feel that if it hadn’t been for the pandemic, Holbrook wouldn’t have been able to exploit and take advantage of my grandma in the same way”, “Holbrook didn’t have any thought or compassion for his victims when he was defrauding them and taking their money”, “ it was a heinous crime”.
Recorder Thyne KC said during sentencing of Peter Holbrook: “You selected your victims who were either elderly or at a time they were most vulnerable after the loss of a loved one. You prepared and presented false documents and pass books furthering your deception. You told lies to victims and their families when they became suspicious, and even arranged a phone call masquerading as a police officer to say it was not a police matter.”
“In the first two interviews, you denied and lied stated you were a rich, professional gambler maintaining that the victims money was in offshore accounts. Only in July 2021, during the interview (conducted by West Yorkshire Trading Standards) did you admit your guilt and addiction.”
“I have read the many personal statements from the people affected in full to comprehend the magnitude of your offending. You took away their financial security and hard earned money, plans for retirement, houses had to be sold in order to pay care home fee’s, victims suffered intolerable anxiety and mental health issues. They have suffered deep hurt, and misunderstandings within the families.”
Recorder Thyne KC further stated: “No sentence would come close to undoing the harm you have caused. In reality, you had numerous opportunities to stop. Culpability falls into the higher category, due to deliberately targeting vulnerable people with significant planning. Holbrook avoided scrutiny over many years with many victims.”
Holbrook showed little empathy towards his victims and his own family and had numerous opportunities to stop his offending but chose not to do so.
Councillor Melanie Jones, Chair of the West Yorkshire Joint Services Committee which oversees the work of Trading Standards said: “Fortunately, cases like this are rare. Peter Holbrook preyed on vulnerable people, often during times of grieving following family bereavements, offering to help with probate and other investments, taking advantage of the position of trust he had created. He took victims’ money and used it for his own benefit. This has been a long and complex investigation by Trading Standards, and I would like to thank the victims and families for involvement in what has been a very distressing case for them.”
Linda Davis, West Yorkshire Trading Standards Manager said: “This was substantial fraud, with many victims losing their life savings to someone they trusted with their money. Holbrook built relationships with them to enable him to persuade them to let him manage their financial affairs, whilst all the time using their money to fund his gambling habit. The sentence today reflects the severity of his offending and the impact on victims. His actions have caused immense stress and worry to those victims and their families, who have lost significant sums in life savings.”
A timetable under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 was set by the Court and a later financial hearing in this matter will be heard.