St Leonards woman sentenced over multiple frauds

A St Leonards woman has been sentenced over multiple frauds totalling more than £20,000 in East Sussex.

Kelly Jane Hodd, 29, unemployed, of Martingale Close, St Leonards on Sea appeared at Lewes Crown Court on 29 September, having pleaded guilty at earlier hearings to 19 counts of fraud and related offences and 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.

Hodd, a mother of two, preyed on her victims in the Hastings and Rother area during 2015 and 2016, while already on bail charged with separate fraud offences for which she was later sent to prison..

She befriended single mothers at private schools, gained their friendship and trust and then committed fraud by arranging fictitious holidays and collecting the money from her victims, before using the money to make small instalments for the private education of her own children and to fund her lifestyle.

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.

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. 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.

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. She also stole money from him and set up insurance for an ex partner’s car on the account of the victim.

Her own children went from one private school to another, four in total. until the fees amounted to several thousand pounds at each and she was asked to remove them due to the unpaid bills and the realisation of the fraud.

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 £2380. 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 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.

“She also thought nothing of taking money from the taxpayer and producing forged documents in order to do so.

“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”.

Rye’s Own Bulletin Tuesday 17 October 2017