Parracombe swindler William Hoveman escapes jail after repaying victims
A SWINDLER who stole from his neighbours to pay his granddaughter’s private school fees has escaped jail after repaying most of the money.
William Hoveman claimed to be an investment expert with years of experience working in the city but lost £27,000 of his neighbour’s life saving within months and stole the other £13,000.
He used the cash to prop up his wife’s failing hotel business in North Devon and the rest to pay school fees for his granddaughter, Exeter Crown Court was told.
The neighbours were left with just £800 of their savings, which they had hoped to spend on their own young family in the future.
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Hoveman was spared jail after he raised £9,000 to repay victims Jonathan and Anne Gibson, who he befriended when they lived next door to his home in Parracombe.
He has promised to repay the remaining £4,000 that he stole and faces seizure of his assets under the Proceeds of Crime Act if he fails to do so.
Hoveman, 60, of South Hill House, Parracombe, admitted a fraud in which he dishonestly obtained £13,000 from Mr Gibson between May 2010 and March 2011.
He was jailed for six months, suspended for a year and curfewed for four months by Judge Alistair McGrigor.
The judge told him: "I have read the pre-sentence report and a doctor’s letter which shows you are clearly in poor health.
“In 2010 you persuaded your neighbours and friends that you had expertise in financial matters, having worked in the city and on the strength of your promises they handed over £40,000.
“Your confidence in your abilities was completely misplaced and in very short order you lost £27,000. You are not being sentenced for that but rather for the £13,000 you stole.
“You used it to try to prop up your wife’s business venture and to pay school fees for your granddaughter, which I note you were still paying at the time the probation pre-sentence report was prepared.
“Throughout these proceedings you have sought to minimise your culpability and did not assist the probation report writer about your financial situation.
“You behaviour crossed the custody threshold but I take into account this is your first offence of this sort, and that you care for your sick wife.
“I also take note of the very important fact that you have repaid £9,000 of your own volition and that allows me to suspend the sentence.”
Mr James Taghdissian, prosecuting, applied for a timetable to be set for confiscation of Hoveman’s assets under the Proceeds of Crime Act to repay the outstanding amount.
He said Mr and Mrs Gibson had confirmed they have received the £9,000 and added: "They have sent a message to the officer in the case saying the money has been paid and it is good.”
Mr Tom Bradnock, defending, said: "He is anxious the outstanding £4,000 has not been repaid and hopes to do so.”
The case against him was explained in full when he first admitted the offence in May. It was adjourned to give him a chance to raise the money and escape jail.
The court heard how Hoveman lived next door to the Gibsons in the Exmoor village of Parracombe and convinced the family he was an expert on investments with years of experience in the city.
In reality he had no qualifications, no accreditation as a financial adviser, and had not worked in finance since having a nervous breakdown 13 years ago.
The fraud was carried out over six months in 2010 and a police financial investigation showed some of the money had been used to pay school fees for his granddaughter Charlotte and pay off debts.
A victim impact statement from Anne and Jonathan Gibson, who have two children aged nine and 12, said: "This whole episode has caused great distress to the family. The money represented our savings and we are angry and upset he used it for his own benefit. He abused our friendship and trust.”
Mr Terry Holder, defending at the earlier hearing, said the offences took place against a background of Hoveman’s wife’s property and hotel businesses being hit by the financial crisis.
He said Hoveman had intended to make real profits for his neighbour and not planned to take the money but used it to stave off debts.
He said his son-in-law has now taken on the burden of the school fees but at the time he felt he had a responsibility to pay them because he had promised to do so in the past.