Grandmother jailed for three years after £500,000 investment scheme fraud discovered
PUBLISHED: 07:20 01 February 2017 | UPDATED: 09:06 01 February 2017
A woman who ‘befriended’ her victims to fraud them out of more than £550,000 in a “persistent and prolonged” scheme to pay off her own debts has been sentenced to three years in prison.
Elizabeth Coppolaro, of High Street, Warboys, admitted to 19 counts of fraud at Peterborough Crown Court on Thursday, which took place between August 2007 and March 2016.
Over the course of a nine-year-period Coppolaro, acting as a financial advisor, took money from 14 victims and pretended to put the money into investment schemes and building projects, gaining £551,415.
Ben Isaacs, prosecuting, said: “This has had a heavy impact on some of the victims, some of these victims being elderly and having invested their life savings, or rather thought they were investing their life savings.”
One of Coppolaro’s victims was a widower, and Coppolaro “became a close friend” and “used her trust” to defraud the victim of £115,000.
The matters were not reported to the police until the beginning of last year when another of Coppolaro’s victims, a 68-year-old woman, became concerned about not receiving a return on her investment.
On this occasion the victim, in 2014, had written a cheque out to a made-up company of ECo, which she thought was an investment company.
Mr Isaacs said: “It wasn’t until the victim contacted her bank that it was discovered that the defendant had changed the cheque to read her name.”
The victim contacted the police, in 2016, following the discovery and Coppolaro made full admissions to further counts of fraud.
The court heard that things began to unravel in 2006 when the 61-year-old gave up her job as a financial advisor and later suffered from the financial crash and the fall in the Spanish property market, which she had hoped to make a living from.
James Earle, in mitigation, said: “Mrs Coppolaro began to run into serious financial difficulty as she couldn’t remortgage her houses.
“Her debts by this time were spiralling out of control; it was her intention to repay the monies at some point. She did try from the outset to repay people; she did try to honour her debts.
“It simply slipped out of control and she had to continue the ponzi scheme to kept one step ahead of her debts.”
Mr Earle added that Coppolaro was using the money to pay her mortgage arrears and living expenses to be able to look after her extended family.
“She has quite a complex family background but none of this is an excuse for what she has done,” Mr Earle said.
It was added that the widow had paid back some of the money that she had taken but Judge Sean Enright said this only allowed her to continue her scheme.
In sentencing, Mr Enright said: “The victims of this fraud were people who were known to you, in fact, friends in many instances, whose trust was placed in you for which you betrayed for your own financial purposes.”
Mr Enright concluded that it was clear that Coppolaro was using the money to look after her family but this “provided an explanation and not an excuse”.
As Mr Enright passed sentence, Coppolaro, sitting in the dock, kept her head down and wiped away tears.
In total, the grandmother was sentenced to three years and nine months.