Scottish Daily Mail
Fraudster faces jail over £500k thef t from OAPs
A FINANCIAL adviser who stole nearly half-a-million pounds from a 91-year-old woman and her dementia-suffering husband faces a lengthy jail term.
Mark Townson, 52, of Baillieston, Glasgow, befriended Mary McDowell and her late husband, George, before taking advantage of their trust and pocketing £465,090 of their money.
He now awaits sentencing in custody after a jury found him guilty of stealing the cash. Townson met Mr and Mrs McDowell while working as a financial adviser for Legal & General, Paisley Sheriff Court was told.
Between 2002 and 2013 he advised the McDowells – who had £1.4million in various accounts – how to make the most of their money.
Between January and October 2011, Townson pocketed £385,090 of the McDowells’ nest egg.
Mrs McDowell, who was 87 at the time, signed cheques which Townson transferred from the couple’s Clydesdale Bank account to her account with Northern Rock.
He then switched the money from the McDowells’ Northern Rock account to his own.
His theft only came to light in December 2012 when, after 14 months of living off the McDowells’ cash, he withdrew £80,000 from their Virgin Money account and paid it into his own account at the same branch.
Giffnock branch manager Jackie Bradshaw spotted the transfer and Townson was suspended while an investigation was carried out.
He was later sacked, arrested and charged with obtaining the money by fraud.
Townson admitted taking the cash but claimed the £385,090 had been given to him as ‘gifts’ by Mrs McDowell, who knew he was struggling financially.
He said the £80,000 was taken so he could invest it to make her a 5 per cent profit – only £4,000.
Townson said he was in ‘a desper- ate financial situation’ running three households after splitting from his wife and paying for his son’s university education.
He also owed money to family members after spending their shares of his mother’s inheritance.
Giving evidence, he said: ‘I’d say we became friends – I got Christmas cards and birthday cards from them.
‘I thought I’d done as good a job as I could possibly do for them.’
He added that, although Mrs McDowell had known what was going on, he was sorry as his actions went against professional protocol.
In relation to the supposed £80,000 investment, he said: ‘What I’ve done is wrong but I had no intention of keeping the clients’ money. It was stupid. I didn’t do it maliciously. I deeply regret it.’
Mrs McDowell was adamant she never gifted Townson any money or agreed to him investing her cash.
Amanda Gallagher, prosecuting, said he had ‘taken advantage of an elderly couple’ and was either ‘brazen’ or ‘stupid’.
Townson will be sentenced later this month.