Autistic and 'unduly optimistic' Yorkshire property scammer conned victims out of life savings

A property scammer from Yorkshire who persuaded victims to invest their pensions and life savings in his schemes has been jailed for fraud.

John Keates-Ormandy, 41, of Sutton on the Forest in North Yorkshire, first began cheating investors - who included a financial consultant, a business consultant and a carer - in 2014 and was arrested in 2018, but has only today been sent to prison for six years at Bradford Crown Court as he delayed the case by promising he could find money to repay them.

He stole a total of £562,000 from eight victims, and only £9,000 has been reimbursed from his own bank accounts to date. The former hairdresser and amateur musician even spent £50,000 on solicitors' fees before realising he qualified for Legal Aid, which the judge pointed out could have been given to the complainants.

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The court heard that Keates-Ormandy, who used three different versions of his name, was supported by his wife Emma and that he is on the autistic spectrum. He is the father of three children aged seven, five and one, the eldest of whom has severe autism.

John Keates-Ormandy

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His modus operandi was to offer the victims the chance to invest in buy-to-let HMO (house of multiple occupation) properties around the UK that he was renovating and developing, from which there would be guaranteed rent, via several sham companies he claimed matched buyers with sellers.

One man who now has cancer is facing having to work longer if he survives the illness as he lost his savings, while a business consultant who lost £77,000 intended that the income from the rental properties he thought he was buying would fund the care of his father, who had dementia.

A financial consultant lost £17,000 and another man who actually visited a house Keates-Ormandy claimed to be selling to him was defrauded of £240,000.

A woman who worked as a carer invested £1,900 in a property in Scotland and has only had £100 returned to her.

Victims described feeling 'embarrassed' that they had fallen for the scam, particularly those who were financially astute, and of feeling shame before their families.

After his arrest in 2018, Keates-Ormandy admitted owning the sham companies but said he was working to get the money back for the 'clients'. He also expressed surprise that the case was being dealt with by police rather than by the civil courts, and described himself as the 'marketing associate' for a more senior member of the business. In a further police interview in 2019, he answered 'no comment' to all questions.

He only pleaded guilty the day before he was due to stand trial and maintained that he could find the money to repay the complainants if given more time to do so.

Keates-Ormandy's defence counsel admitted that though he had hoped to be able to offer the funds as mitigation at the sentencing, no money was available for the victims.

He said his client had been 'balancing plates' during the con and that his ambition to make commissions had got him 'deeper and deeper' into trouble. Though he had spent six weeks making calls, no money had ever materialised.

"He remains ever the optimist, though a failure in all deals. Hope has turned to dishonesty throughout. He has become a con artist. He has a very excitable nature and is prone to undue optimism, but there is little chance of the victims getting their money back."

A character reference was given by businessman Skye Levitas, who used Keates-Ormandy's services as a property agent and described him as 'polite and friendly.'

Sentencing, Recorder Alex Menary said: "Five years down the line, you are still asking for more money to get the money back. People have lost their life savings and pensions. There is no real expression of remorse from you. This was a persistent and sophisticated fraud."

Speaking after the sentencing, victim David Evans, from Doncaster, said that the complainants had had to fight to get the case to court after being initially told it was not a criminal matter.

He has also questioned why concerns about Keates-Ormandy's conduct were not recorded with the government Ombudsman despite previous civil rulings against him.

"He'll serve three years and I feel like he's got away with a lot of money - more than I'd earn in three years. But there will be a Proceeds of Crime Act hearing and I trust the police to get it back.

"We really had to fight to get the police to investigate, and at first we were told there was no crime. I even wrote to Theresa May when she was prime minister. The Ombudsman at first told me it was only a 'commercial deal' and offered me £200 in compensation. It is a sad indictment of society and how we treat fraud and the normal people who are the victims of it.

"My health has been badly affected and I don't trust people any more. I did my research before I invested, I contacted the Ombudsman and asked if there had been any complaints about him, but nobody had ever complained despite the judgements against him.

"Justice has been done, but to get it to court was a battle. Full credit to Detective Constable Rebecca Lawrence from West Yorkshire Police who investigated."