Woman left cousin with just 21p in the bank after using up her life savings

A general view of Newcastle Crown Court.

Devonport pleaded guilty to fraud at Newcastle Crown Court (Image: PA)

A woman who cheated her cousin out of her £47,000 life savings and claimed she was “lonely and paid for people to date her” has been jailed.

Karen Devonport, 58, and victim Susan Marshall grew up together and “like sisters,” Newcastle Crown Court heard.

So Mrs. Marshall had no reason to suspect anything ominous when Devonport started borrowing money in April 2019.

Devonport told her she could pay the money back once their £65,000 divorce settlement was finalized. But she had actually received it the year before and already spent it all.

In all, Devonport from Sunderland raised a total of £47,000 across 44 different loans.

She pleaded guilty to fraud and was jailed for two years and four months.

Alec Burns, prosecutor, told the court Devonport first asked for a loan in April 2019.

He said: “She asked for £8,000 for her daughter’s wedding but coincidentally someone else had already paid for the wedding.

“The defendant told her she was due a divorce settlement of £65,000 but in the near future and would pay it back but as it turned out she had had that money for a year and had already spent it.”

The court heard that Devonport asked for regular handouts over a 20-month period.

They included hundreds of pounds at a time to pay for a log cabin, £3,000 to help set up a nail salon, £2,000 for a wedding dress, £700 for bridesmaid dresses, £1,000 for a wedding photographer, money for legal bills, insurance fees and furniture .

In a statement on the impact of the sacrifice, Ms Marshall said the betrayal left her “devastated”, adding: “Karen took all my life savings. I was left with 21p in my home savings account.

“Joe and I have been saving since we got married in 1984.”

She said: “Karen told me she was desperate, she needed the money and promised to pay me back once she got her divorce settlement.

“I had no reason not to believe Karen or the reasons she needed the money. I thought the money would be refunded. I had no reason not to believe or trust her.

“I didn’t even tell my husband, but over time I got a feeling something was wrong.”

Ms Marshall said the stress of keeping the loans “secret” was affecting her health, adding: “My daughter actually thought I had dementia.”

Defending Devonport, Susan Hirst said: “She is deeply ashamed of her own behavior and the devastation she knows she has caused her cousin.

“She betrayed one of the people she was closest to in her life. Your repentance is heartfelt and genuine.’

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Speaking directly to Devonport, the judge said: “It was an extraordinarily mean offense committed against an extremely close member of your family, your cousin. You are the same age, grew up together, you were like sisters.

“You stole all life savings from her and her husband by committing the offence.

“You promised her you were still waiting for a divorce settlement, that was a complete lie, you knew full well you had already spent the money.

“You also knew that there was absolutely no prospect that you would repay the sums of money received.”

The court heard Devonport has started repaying her cousin in monthly installments of £500. She has repaid a total of £3,000 so far.

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Justin Scacco

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