Show jumping team conman escapes to France in boatBy Caroline Cook
September 28, 2010
The Finchampstead man behind a show-jumping team con worth around £50,000 is thought to be on the run in Europe after sailing a fishing boat to France the night before he was due to be jailed.
Reading Crown Court heard on Monday how George Schouten, 36, of Nine Mile Ride, is believed to be abroad after failing to turn up to sentencing and confiscation hearings.
Schouten was previously sentenced, in his absence, to two years and three months in prison after admitting he tricked three men into investing thousands of pounds in various schemes under the pretence he was a major figure in the show-jumping circuit. He also told victims he was the son of the wealthy owner of IT firm IBM.
At the confiscation hearing at Reading Crown Court on Monday, Judge Mary Mowat ordered an absent Schouten to repay £30,000 to one of his victims or face an additional 15 months in jail.
The court heard how Schouten had handed police an out-of-date passport and was now on the run.
Simon Heptonstall, prosecuting, told the court at the confiscation hearing how Scouten had fled the country using a borrowed boat the night before his sentencing on Friday, July 30.
He said: “The last best information is that he obtained a boat and left the night before he was due for sentence and sailed to France.
“At least he had the good grace to text the owner of the fishing boat and tell him where he would find his vessel.”
Financial software salesman Dean Sayer invested his life-savings worth £30,000 in an Asian business venture with Schouten in 2007, in which Schouten said he would buy microchips abroad and sell them for profit in England.
But after handing over the cash Mr Sayer did not see his investment again.
Last Monday, Judge Mary Mowat ordered Schouten to repay £30,000 to Mr Sayer or serve a further 15 months in jail if he cannot repay the money when he is caught.
Schouten has known assets worth £39,250 including seven horses which are expected to fetch £15,000 when sold. There is a further £8,000 which was seized and will be handed over to Mr Sayer.
The Dutch national, who used various versions of his name calling himself George Wurzenthale, George Schouten and George Wurzenthale-Schouten, told his victims he was the son of a multi-millionaire and convinced them to give him equestrian goods on credit.
The conman said his problems began because he had a high maintenance girlfriend.
Schouten persuaded Patrick Riley, of Zamar ITT, a company which provides therapy equipment for horses, to hand over top-of-the-range equestrian machinery worth more than £26,000 on trust after meeting him at a show jumping event in 2008.
When no payment was made Mr Riley contacted a repossession company who recovered most of the stock.
The convincing trickster also used his fictitious equestrian persona to persuade victim Bob Wallis, director of Crown Equestrian Ltd, to embroider merchandise worth £14,000 for the horses and riders of a show jumping team called Team IBM, which did not exist.
During his earlier sentencing hearing Judge Mowat questioned whether Schouten was “one of these conmen who lives in one or more parallel universes.”
Michael Orsulik, defending, asked for the defence counsel to be struck off the record at the confiscation hearing as he said he could offer nothing in defence.
He said: “I am without instructions at all. Mr Schouten is not an easy man to deal with when he is present. I am sure eventually he will be apprehended.”
Thames Valley Police issued a warrant for Schouten’s arrest after his earlier sentencing hearing and are now set to apply for a European arrest warrant.
Police financial investigation officer Jenny Bailey said: “We will be seeking a European arrest warrant for Mr Schouten. The confiscation order is greatly reduced compared to what we would have done if he was still present.
“With the nature of the offences he was convicted for the court can take the view he was living a criminal lifestyle and can look at six years of his financial dealings.
“We could say any money over the six years could be part of the confiscation. When he is found that is something we could revisit.”