Adviser who stole from client of 18 years told to repay £66k

A financial adviser who stole close to £36,000 from an elderly client of more than 18 years, before retiring to Spain, has been ordered to pay fines and redress totaling more than £66,000 and handed a suspended prison sentence at Exeter Crown Court.

John Dickinson, 71, who worked for investment firm Foresters, had been a financial adviser to the Pethrick family for 18 years before he started a swindle that saw elderly pensioner Annie Petherick and her son Andrew sign over large cheques, which he used to pay tax and credit card bills.

He told Ms Petherick and her son Andrew that the money was being invested, but paid it straight into his own accounts. The theft was detected when an accountant checked the family’s finances and highlighted the missing money, by which time Mr Dickinson had retired.

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Ms Petherick, who was in her 70s, died while waiting to get her money back, but her 50-year-old son, who suffers from learning difficulties, should be repaid within the next few months.

Mr Dickinson emigrated to the Algarve just a month before he was due to attend a police interview into the thefts, which his defence claimed had been part of a long-standing retirement plan.

He was tracked down by detectives from the Devon and Cornwall police and has been in Exeter Prison since being brought back to Britain under a European Arrest Warrant in August. The warrants have been the subject of controversy, after MPs were refused a vote on opting back into the European policing measure.

Mr Dickinson admitted fraud and three offences of executing a valuable security. He was jailed for two years, suspended for two years, fined £20,000 with £800 costs, and ordered to do 240 hours unpaid community work by recorder Simon Levene at Exeter Crown Court.

He was also ordered to pay £46,184 compensation and could be jailed for up to 30 months if he fails to pay this and the fine.

Gordon Richings, prosecuting, said Mr Dickinson became trusted by Mrs Petherick and her son when he visited them at their home near Great Torrington and acted as financial adviser with the investment firm Foresters from 1992 onwards.

He persuaded them to write him cheques totalling more than £30,000 between 2005 and 2008, which he said would be invested but which were paid into his own accounts. Mr Richings said there was no evidence of high living and it appears some of the money was used to pay tax or credit card bills.

Mr Richings said the proceeds of the sale of Mr Dickinson’s home in Surrey had been restrained and the compensation figure of £46,185, had been calculated on the basis of inflation since he stole the money.

He said Mr Dickinson’s primary concern at the time had been the care of his seriously ill wife, which he had undertaken until his arrest, and his greatest worry while in custody has been her welfare.