An antiques dealer who duped unsuspecting collectors by forging the signatures in books of famous writers like Sir Winston Churchill and Robert Louis Stevenson was jailed for 10 months yesterday.
Allan Formhals found the books and magazines in car boot sales and a recycling centre, added the signatures and then sold them on eBay to collectors as the real thing.
He made £6,967 defrauding two collectors after also lying about the provenance of the items.
Southampton Crown Court heard that Formhals was in poor health and suffering from high blood pressure and arthritis.
Imposing the jail term, Judge Peter Henry said the fraud was widespread, planned and significant profit was made from it, but he took into account Formhals’s bad health and reduced the sentence.
“It’s always sad to see a person of 66 years of age convicted by a jury of a serious fraud, particularly as you have no previous convictions,” he said.
“It must be made perfectly clear that those who are tempted to indulge in this type of fraud, particularly over the internet, must understand the consequences.”
Police found “an Aladdin’s Cave” of forged signatures from Oliver Cromwell, Elizabeth I and Marie Antoinette among others when the 66-year-old’s home was searched, the judge said.
Formhals denied 15 charges of fraud from 2009 to 2011 but was found guilty of 10 counts in October.
During the trial, the court heard Formhals claimed in emails that the Churchill books came from the home of a famous Second World War fighter ace, Squadron Leader Neville Duke, who lived near him in Milford-on-sea in Hampshire and was a friend of the wartime leader. He had died in 2007.
He was also acquitted of two counts and the jury could not decide on a further three counts.