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Conman exposed by Holsworthy pub landlord

By NDJJoel  |  Posted: October 09, 2012

Exeter Crown Court

A conman who swindled hotels all over Britain has been jailed after he was tracked down by a cunning pub landlord.

David Brown has spent years dodging the police as he went from one hotel to the next running up large bills before doing a flit but his luck ran out when he tried the trick at a hotel in North Devon.

Boss Jon Hutchings was so angry when he realised Brown had given him a dud cheque that he found the taxi driver who picked him up and tracked him down to a pub in a neighbouring town.

He found him tucking into the most expensive item on the menu, a 16 ounce T-bone steak, and alerted the landlady who delayed Brown by giving him tea and biscuits until the police arrived.

Brown was the subject of a nationwide alert after fleeing from a bail hostel in Dorset, and he had already struck at hotels in Hayle, St Ives and Porthminster in Cornwall before moving on to Devon.

He ran up a bill of more than £100 at Mr Hutchings’ White Hart Hotel in Holsworthy before moving on to the Black Horse in Torrington where he was arrested.

Brown, aged 56, who is also known as Ben St James and has 30 other false identities, of Avon Road, Charminster, Bournemouth, admitted four frauds and one theft. He asked for 20 similar cases from as far afield as Inverness and Wales to be considered.

He was jailed for eight months by Recorder Mr Stewart Patterson at Exeter Crown Court who told him he had an appalling record which includes 88 frauds and 93 thefts.

He appeared in custody after being jailed for identical offences by Arbroath Sherriff Court in June.

The recorder told him: “These frauds all involved obtaining accommodation, food and drink. You have been before the courts again and again.

“These offences have by and large been committed because of your addiction to alcohol and you have indicated a determination to put it behind you, but that will not be easy.”

Caroline Bolt, for the prosecution, said the current offences happened between February and May this year and started when he left the Seaview Place Hotel in St Ives without paying.

He went on to the White Hart Hotel in Hayle where he said booked rooms for himself and three men he said were work colleagues who were due to join him and would pay the bill.

He left owing £184.85 and then stayed at the Pedn Olva Hotel at Porthminster Beach where he left a bill of £63.45 for food and drink and £296 for his room.

She said he was arrested after staying at the White Hart in Holsworthy where he tried to pay £240 in advance with a stolen company cheque but fled when the owner became suspicious and called the firm.

She said: “The manager discovered the cheque was stolen and located Brown to a pub in Torrington where he had already run up a bar bill of £46.95.

“He was interviewed and admitted all the offences and said he had done it to fund his alcohol addiction.”

Miss Bolt said the total value of the frauds and the offences taken into account was £2,700.

Brian FitzHerbert, for the defence, said Brown is desperate to give up alcohol and crime but had gone off the rails after being placed in a bail hostel which he hoped would be a dry house.

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