Jail for man who conned his victims out of £25k

December 11, 2017

A Newry man who scammed seven people out of thousands of pounds over a period of just five months has been handed a 20-month jail sentence. 

Matthew Harvey (23), from Bridge Street, appeared at Belfast Crown Court on Tuesday where he was convicted of defrauding his victims of more than £25,000 between October 2016 and March this year.  The sum included £18,000 from a gay man whom Harvey met via a dating website.  Over the course of two months the victim handed over varying amounts of cash to Harvey, believing they were developing a relationship.

As part of his ruse to extract money, the Newry con artist claimed he needed money to pay for urgent medical care for his ill father and to cover the cost of his mother’s funeral.  Those claims were branded “untrue” at Tuesday’s hearing.

Harvey’s other victims, some of whom were described as “vulnerable” by prosecutors, included a woman he went to primary school with and a single mother with dyslexia.

Between November 2016 and January 2017, he persuaded three people to take out telephone contracts in their own names before convincing them to sell the phones, resulting in losses to the individuals and to the store’s owners who purchased the phones. 

In March of this year, Harvey targeted a single mother with dyslexia whose child has autism, persuading her to apply for two online loans in her name, as well as a contract for an iPhone and iPad.  He told the woman the items were for his church and assured her he would transfer the finance into his name but failed to do so.

Harvey was arrested getting off a flight from Cuba earlier this year and subsequently admitted multiple charges of fraud by false representation, as well as thefts. The court heard that his offences were linked to his gambling addiction, which led him to develop a taste for an extravagant lifestyle. In addition, his defence lawyer revealed his client’s long history of mental illness and ADHD as well as problems with alcohol. He said Harvey accepted that his actions were “low, mean and despicable”.

Sentencing the Newry man (who appeared before the court with 18 previous convictions), Judge Patricia Smyth said he had deliberately targeted his victims and noted both the number of victims, and the impact the crimes have had on them. 

Harvey will serve half his sentence in jail with the remainder on license.