UK: Mark Acklom sentenced to five years


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Most-wanted conman Mark Acklom sentenced to five years in prison for fraud

The lifelong fraudster posed as a wealthy Swiss banker and MI6 spy, calling himself Mark Conway, to woo divorcee Carolyn Woods.

By Martin Brunt, crime correspondent
Wednesday 7 August 2019

Notorious conman Mark Acklom has been sentenced to five years in prison after admitting to swindling a woman he agreed to marry out of £300,000.

He was handed a sentence of five years and eight months, with half the time to be spent in custody.

The lifelong fraudster posed as a wealthy Swiss banker and MI6 spy, calling himself Mark Conway, to woo divorcee Carolyn Woods, then left her penniless and suicidal after vanishing with the money she loaned him.

During sentencing, Judge Martin Picton told Acklom the money he took from Ms Woods "slipped through your fingers like water".

Ms Woods delivered a powerful victim impact statement in court, saying she felt "condemned to a life I don't want".

She said that when she discovered the truth, it was "as though the man I fell in love with had died".

"What I had to get my head around was the fact that the man I fell in love with never actually existed; he was the fictitious creation of Mark Acklom," she said.

She continued: "My life, as I knew it, has indeed been destroyed, and it has only been the love of my two daughters that has prevented me from ending it completely."

Since the betrayal, Ms Woods said she struggled to get a job, suffered financial ruin and had to resort to borrowing money from her friends and daughters.

Acklom went on the run, changing his name several times, and was jailed in Spain for a property scam before UK police discovered his whereabouts and got an arrest warrant for him.

But they were too late - he was freed early and fled to Switzerland where Sky News discovered him running a bogus firm claiming to make black box data recorders for driverless cars.

He was extradited to the UK in February after Swiss authorities decided not to prosecute him for a scam in which one investor gave him €400,000 (£368,621) for the black box project.

Acklom claimed it was backed with $5bn (£4.1bn) by US electric car pioneer Elon Musk.

A month ago, Acklom was still pleading his innocence over the UK charges in a letter to me from his cell in Geneva's Champ Dollon prison.

He wrote: "They charge me first with fraud for having accepted a loan I never even asked for and then money laundering for having used the loan for its agreed purpose."

He also told me he would never get a fair trial because of his notoriety and unfair media.

But on Wednesday, 45-year-old Acklom pleaded guilty at Bristol Crown Court to five fraud charges involving just under £300,000 Ms Woods lent him during their year-long relationship.

He met her when he walked into the village boutique she ran in Tetbury, Gloucestershire in 2012. She admits she fell for his charm and good looks almost instantly.

She believes he targeted her and brainwashed her after discovering she was single and had money to buy a house.

She said she became a prisoner after he isolated her from her family and friends, forced her to move home and replaced her computer and mobile phone so he could "monitor them for security reasons."

Speaking to the court, Acklom said he did not "target" Ms Woods and was "genuinely attracted to her".

"The reality is that she knew that I had a number of financial obligations, debts and business interests and was happy to lend me money for whatever purpose I saw fit," he said.

"I did intend to pay the money back at some stage and do not accept that the arrangement was fraudulent from the outset."

Acklom told her he was buying and renovating a manor house near Bath and when she overheard him discussing a cash flow problem she offered him a series of loans which he accepted.

He vanished after she finally realised she had been the victim of a romance scam and confronted him.

She discovered his life of crime, including his first jail sentence in 1991 when, as a public schoolboy, he stole his father's credit card to hire private jets to fly his pals around Europe.

At 16, he also duped a building society into giving him a £500,000 mortgage which he used to buy a plush house in South London close to the home of ex-prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

Ms Woods, 61, the mother of two daughters, said when she went to the police she wasn't treated seriously, even being accused of fraud herself.

In desperation she turned to Sky News for help in tracking down Acklom in Italy, Spain and Switzerland.

Avon and Somerset police later admitted it had initially handled her complaint badly. It's understood one detective was disciplined and taken off the case.


Staff member
Uh, so why does he only spend half his time behind bars?