A 'convincing liar' from St Leonards who admitted to stealing more than £20,000 in a series of fraud offences has been given a suspended prison sentence.
Kelly Jane Hodd, 29, unemployed, of Martingale Close, appeared at Lewes Crown Court on September 29, after pleading guilty to 19 counts of fraud and related offences at earlier hearings. She was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment suspended for two years on each count, to run concurrently. She was also ordered to undertake 240 hours of unpaid work.
Police say Hodd, herself a mother of two, had befriended single mothers at private schools, gained their friendship and trust before committing fraud by arranging fictitious holidays and collecting the money from her victims. Police say she used the money to make small instalments for the private education of her own children and to fund her lifestyle.
Police say these offences took place in the Hastings and Rother area during 2015 and 2016, while Hodd was already on bail charged with separate fraud offences.
Police Investigator Julie Maley, of the Hastings Investigations Team, said: “Hodd was a convincing liar who showed no remorse or consideration for her victims. She initially told us that all the witnesses were lying and had made up stories about her, but eventually realised that she had no option but to plead guilty.
"She earned the trust of all her victims and witnesses, before helping herself to their money.
“The victims in this case felt there was a serious breach of trust after they included Hodd in their circle of friends, and made the witnesses feel very embarrassed that they had been ‘taken in’ by her deceit”.
Police say Hodd also used false details and forged documents to obtain places at the schools for her children. In one instance, she provided false Canadian school reports claiming the children had been educated in Canada, rather than admitting that the children were at a Hastings private school where she had not paid the fees.
In another instance she claimed that her mother had properties for sale and the proceeds would pay the school fees for years in advance, then forged bank statements to show credits to the school account for the fees paid, police said.
Police say Hodd also made forged documents, emails, letters, invoices and bank statements to facilitate her fraudulent activity and encourage her victims into parting with money. When one of her victims had been sucked in by her personality, Hodd photographed details of bank cards whilst accepting the hospitality at the house of the victim, and later transferred money to her mother’s bank account and credit card account. Police say she also booked tickets to theme parks using the stolen card details and set up direct debits for her mother’s credit card account.
Another victim was deceived several times before realising that Hodd was committing fraud. In addition to losing money her details were used by Hodd to open a catalogue account and goods were ordered with no payment ever being made, police said.
Hodd also acted as an assistant to a widowed father and whilst helping him to make a legitimate claim for working benefits, changed the bank details to her mother’s account, subsequently receiving the money for herself, leaving the victim thousands of pounds out of pocket, police said. Police say she also stole money from him and set up insurance for an ex partner’s car on the account of the victim.
In yet another offence, Hodd telephoned Sussex Police purporting to be her own mother and reported a bank cash card stolen, saying that it had been used for a small withdrawal, and then defrauded the bank out of £2,380. However her voice was recognised by the Investigating Officer.
Working Tax Credit, Housing Benefit and childcare costs were fraudulently claimed using forged documents for work and childcare costs that did not exist, police said.