Man accused of lonely hearts scam left his wife bankrupt, court told

A man accused of a conning a string of women out of more than £180,000 in an internet lonely hearts scam left his wife bankrupt, a court has heard.

Matthew Samuels, who is on trial for fraud, told some of the women he met through online dating websites that he was "one of the richest men in the UK", according to prosecutors.

The Crown has claimed instead that Samuels is adept at "juggling" relationships "to obtain money".

He is accused of conning five women including a wealthy widow and a serving police detective, between 2011 and this summer.

Former public schoolboy Samuels, 50, is also alleged to have cheated his own stepson out of thousands of pounds over what prosecutors claimed was a dodgy car deal. He denies 11 counts of fraud.

His ex-wife Caroline Morris told the court she went bankrupt owing £150,000 after allowing him use of her credit cards and taking out loans.

Ms Morris, from Lichfield, Staffordshire said the couple met at a motor show in Earl's Court, London, in 1992 and they had children.

In 2003 the couple married and Samuels was written into her mortgage, and promptly refinanced the property for £111,000 more.

She claimed her "A1 credit rating" was wiped out by her former husband's spending over the next few years, before she ended the relationship in a "messy" divorce in 2007.

Ms Morris, mother to seven of his children, said: "He borrowed on every single credit card I had. I had a (£20,000) M&S loan, I had American Express loan me some money, and almost paid M&S back and had to go bankrupt in the end."

By 2011, she and the children were "living like church mice" with the burden of debt, she said.

She told Worcester Crown Court she would be paying back an outstanding debt from the period, and added: "I'm still paying those payments."

However, for one period Ms Morris was involved in a what she agreed was "a three-way relationship" with her ex-husband and his new female partner, all living under the same roof.

Ms Morris said Samuels had run car dealerships and always believed the money was to fund his businesses.

Gareth Walters, prosecuting, asked her if the relationship "started to decline" when she became aware of text messages to Samuels from another woman.

Breaking down, Ms Morris said: "I knew there was somebody in the background of his life."

She added: "I suppose I loved him and wanted him to be with me, and I put up with him."

Sitting in the dock in a suit and tie, Samuels, who was privately educated at King Edward's in Witley, Surrey, showed no emotion as his ex-wife wiped away her tears.

In cross-examination, Samuels's barrister Abigail Nixon said: "You agree the credit cards' use was with your permission. So even if there was £150,000 on your credit cards, that was all done with your knowledge and permission."

Ms Nixon asked: "He did pay you back in relation to the the loans?"

Ms Morris replied: "To a point and then he couldn't pay any more. He robbed Peter to pay Paul, borrowed from one to pay another, and then I jumped. I wish I had jumped sooner."

The jury also heard from Samuels's sister who claimed he was "brilliant at business", likening him to entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson.

Deborah Storer said her brother was treated differently by their mother from the other three siblings, being sent to an expensive boarding school and was, as Ms Nixon put it, "the apple of his mother's eye".

After an up-and-down relationship, she told the court Samuels rang her with "wonderful" news, telling her he had won the EuroMillions lottery, and claimed he would pay off her mortgage.

She told the jury she quit her job and stopped paying her mortgage, based on her brother's news - and later nearly lost her home when the banks foreclosed and no lottery winnings surfaced.

On Tuesday, the jury heard how serving West Mercia Police Detective Nicola Bull was allegedly drawn in by Samuels who is accused of conning her out of almost £12,000.

He is also accused of cheating mother-of-three Anne Ruddock, from Ledbury in Herefordshire, out of £45,000, and Alfreda Roberts, a 78-year-old widow from Ipswich, out of £110,000 of the money her husband left her.

Opening the prosecution, Mr Walters said: "He has been shown to be adept at juggling a number of relationships simultaneously, the Crown would say using those relationships to obtain money from his partners either with or without their knowledge."

The trial of Samuels, of Broadway Grove, St Johns, Worcester, continues. It is expected to last four weeks.

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