Above: David Prescott (Labour Parliamentary Candidate
for Gainsborough), Labour Party Leader Ed Miliband and
Ms Charmaine Bowers, Labour Party Candidate for the
Gainsborough North Ward
Mr. Prescott tweeted:
"I'm shocked & angry one of our council candidates has pleaded guilty to fraud. She has been suspended by the party."The Grimsby Telegraph reported yesterday that Labour District Council Candidate Ms Charmaine Bowers, of Laceby Road, Grimsby and her mother Mrs. Tina Bowers, both pleaded guilty at Plymouth Crown Court to six counts of fraud by false representation and has been jailed for a festival ticket fraud involving more than £100,000.
Prosecutor Andrew Maitland said the pair, who came from Tavistock but now lived in Grimsby, North East Lincolnshire, were involved in the "sophisticated" fraud between December 2012 and July 2013.
He said Charmaine had falsely claimed on a Facebook page she modelled for Nuts magazine and had access to promotional tickets. He said she had also claimed to earn £8,000 per month modelling for Dior and MAC cosmetics. He said:
"This was a carefully constructed fraud" and the former Face of Plymouth contestant "presented herself in this glamorous life".Mr Maitland said records seized by detectives found there were "at least 311" people who paid up-front for a unique entrance wristband and confirmation slip.
The money that came in initially went into her mother's account until her own was set up. Mr Maitland said bank records revealed funds 'to the tune of £71,620 coming to the defendants'.
Investigators also found that Tina used her employer's office computer and printer in Tavistock to print off 'skilfully created' bar-coded confirmation slips for ticket buyers which had been created on Charmaine's laptop.
Mr Maitland said further investigation determined that the total paid by the victims amounted to £121,280. As 'disquiet' and pressure grew when the tickets did not appear the two of the ticket buyers, who were buying on behalf of others, suffered a number of calls, and they in turn called the Bowers, with Tina fielding many of the angry calls. He said a 'huge number of excuses were made' and in response to threats the pair went to Tavistock police where the "tearful" Charmaine claimed people were falsely accusing them of fraud.
Mr Maitland said a 'totally fictitious account was given' which claimed Charmaine was approached by a friend Emily Stevens to help sell the tickets, with the finger of suspicion pointed at a Plymouth man she was tricking with the bogus tickets.
It was a 'totally dishonest fabrication' which was uncovered by Detective Constable Glenn Harrop of Devonport CID. He learned she had created a series of Facebook pages – including one under the name Emily Stevens. Her mistake was using the Danish word for 'grandfather' for all her different accounts. He said the creation of the Emily Stevens persona was 'a deliberate invention to create reality to this facade she was presenting. Throughout her interview she tearfully denied all liability as did her mother'. Her mother even claimed during interview her daughter's modelling career began after she and a friend had sent in their pictures to Nuts and were voted "third best bum in England".
In mitigation, their advocate Michael Green said Charmaine was suffering from bipolar, but accepted there was no formal diagnosis at the time of the fraud. He noted she was now passionate about politics and was a candidate for a local election in Lincolnshire 'standing for the Labour party'. Mr Green noted she was now on medication with Livium to stabilise her bi-polar disorder – which he said could present itself as mood instability, erratic behaviour, heavy spending, grandiose thinking alternating with low feelings. However, Judge Jeremy Griggs interjected, saying:
"She was in control of her faculties to set up a rather sophisticated fraud".Accepting this, Mr Green said the condition could account as to why she was 'living in fantasy life'. Responding, Judge Griggs suggested
"A female Walter Mitty? Many Walter Mitty's appear before the court suffering bipolar condition, but they still face custodial terms."Sentencing, Judge Griggs said Charmaine played a 'leading role' and 'maintained your fantasy land during interview with police' in an attempt to divert the investigation.
He jailed her for two years and three months, taking into account her early guilty plea. He said Tina 'facilitated' the fraud and sentenced her to 29 weeks, suspended for two years. She was ordered to complete 150 hours unpaid work. He adjourned the case for seven days for a Proceeds of Crime Act hearing to be timetabled.
Speaking after the hearing, Detective Constable Glenn Harrop said he was pleased justice has been done and the thanked the victims for their patience. He said the victims mainly came from the Burnley, St Helen's and Plymouth area with each victim losing up to £500 each. He said: "Charmaine Bowers has been dishonest and devious to her victims and also to police throughout the investigation.
"She was a complete fantastist that made honest people believe that she was a Nuts model and a model scout building her 'Walter Mitty' persona using social media to carry out her crime. She has never worked but having defrauded victims of their money has managed to spend £70,000 in four months on living the good life which had included holidays to Denmark and Rome, cruise holidays for her parents, as well as TVs, computers and mobile phones, jewellery and clothes.
"What was particularly sickening was her reference to 'Happy Money' on her bank accounts when transfering her ill-gotten gains to her mother's bank accout. There was nothing happy about the loss to the victims who were mostly young 18 to 30 year olds with little disposable income. Other victims have included veteran servicemen just back from Afghanistan on leave."Detective Constable Harrop said Tina Bowers was 'happy to make life easier by illegal gains from Charmaine's lies, ignoring the hard facts that her daughter never had any legitimate modelling contracts'. He noted how several of the victims had been 'used' as middlemen to innocently sell tickets to others and could not be blamed for their involvement. He added:
"I hope the custodial sentence given will allow Charmaine and Tina Bowers time to consider their crime and impact they had on their victims."