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Model and her mother in '£3million property fraud plot'

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 5/01/2017 Tristan Kirk

Model: Laylah de Cruz, 31 © Evening Standard Model: Laylah de Cruz, 31 A model and her mother plotted to take control of a pensioner’s £3 million ($NZD5 million) Kensington house in an “audacious” property fraud, a court heard.

Laylah De Cruz, 31, enlisted her mother Dianne Moorcroft, 62, to pose as the owner of the mews home, fooling solicitors and estate agents into believing she was looking to sell up and move to Dubai, it is said.

The pair were lured into the scam by fraudsters with the offer of £100,000, jurors heard, helping to secure a £1.2 million bridging loan on the four-bedroom property.

Moorcroft, who lives in Blackpool, changed her name by deed poll to Margaret Gwenllian Richards to make it identical to that of the house’s 85-year-old rightful owner.

<span style="font-size:13px;">The road in Kensington where the home is located (Nigel Howard)</span> © Nigel Howard The road in Kensington where the home is located (Nigel Howard)

She allegedly secured a UK passport and Dubai residency permit in Mrs Richards’s name to convince loans firm Finance and Credit Corporation to transfer £1.2 million to a bank account in Dubai, Southwark crown court heard.

The deal was flagged as a possible fraud by the Land Registry but the money had already been withdrawn as cash in Dubai before investigators could stop it.

De Cruz and Moorcroft are standing trial accused of conspiring with others to carry out the fraud in mid-2014.

Allegations: Laylah De Cruz and her mother Dianne Moorcroft outside court. © Central News Allegations: Laylah De Cruz and her mother Dianne Moorcroft outside court. Prosecutor Teresa Hay said: “The fraud was as simple as it was audacious. Dianne Moorcroft changed her name by deed poll in summer 2014 solely for the purpose of participating in this fraud.

“She was encouraged and supported in the endeavour by her daughter Laylah De Cruz.”

Messages between the pair show Moorcroft was worried that changing her name would cause problems with her medical documents but De Cruz told her: “It’s 30k, you fly here for two days then back. You can change to your other name. It’s only your passport, not all your docs.”

In a later message to her, De Cruz apparently revealed that the payment had been increased, saying: “It’s now 100k for you.”

Ms Hay said the property, which was vacant as owner Mrs Richards lives in Cambridge, was rented by a man called Mark Armstrong for £6,500 a month in August 2014.

He then went to a solicitor, claiming to represent Mrs Richards and saying she was looking to sell up and move to Dubai.

Moorcroft changed her name to Margaret Gwenllian Richards and went with Mr Armstrong to the solicitors’ office to back up his claim that a sale was imminent.

The court heard that in October Moorcroft emailed the solicitor to say she was applying for a bridging loan against the property to release equity without waiting for a buyer to be found.

Ms Hay said: “She was clearly representing that she was free to use the property as she saw fit.”

On October 20 a loan of £1,196,108 was sent to Moorcroft’s bank account in Dubai on her instruction, the court heard, and had already been withdrawn when the Land Registry noted the deal as a potential fraud.

Ms Hay said Moorcroft’s passport shows she flew back and forth to Dubai when the deal was going through. She is said to have been with her daughter in the United Arab Emirates when the loan money was transferred.

The prosecutor said De Cruz and Moorcroft played a “small but hugely significant” role in the alleged scam.

“The efforts of the others could never have even taken shape in the absence of a female participant willing and able to represent herself to the solicitor as the rightful owner of the property,” she said. “Without a public face of the fraud to go along to the solicitor and say, ‘I am Margaret Gwenllian Richards’, the scheme could never have got off the ground.

“And Ms Moorcroft herself wouldn’t have been involved in the scheme were it not for the intervention and encouragement of her daughter.”

The mother was arrested in February 2015 and stayed silent in interview. Her daughter also said no comment to questions when she was detained last May.

De Cruz, who lives in Dubai, and Moorcroft deny conspiracy to commit fraud. Moorcroft denies possession of an identity document with improper intention. The trial continues.

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