Peter Walnes the 'utterly dishonest' serial conman spared jail because he is old

Pensioner fraudster Peter Walnes has been spared jail
Pensioner fraudster Peter Walnes has been spared jail -Credit:Unsplash

A fraudster pensioner sole trader buying and selling photographic equipment online has been spared jail because of his age, but has been warned that should he ever appear before a court again he'll go straight inside. Peter Walnes, 77, of Rosudgeon, near Marazion, Penzance, received a two-year suspended prison sentence for defrauding customers to the tune of more than £180,000 over several years when he first appeared before Truro Crown Court in June 2023 having pleaded guilty to a charge participating in a fraudulent business.

The original offence took place between June 2019 and October 2021 in west Cornwall where Walnes ran a business buying and selling cameras and photography equipment. The court heard how, initially, Walnes' business had been legitimate and provided an income for him and his partner.

However, when the Covid pandemic hit, business slowed and Walnes began to take money from customers for items he would never send them. On other occasions, Walnes would pretend to sell items for customers but never passed on the money he received for them.

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In total, 16 victims were identified, with one victim losing about £150,000 to Walnes. In total, Walnes took £187,000 from customers over the two-year period.

Walnes appeared before the court again on Friday (May 10) for sentencing having pleaded guilty to a similar fraud charge relating to the defrauding of more customers - a mere month after receiving his original suspended sentence.

The court heard that in July last year he offered to buy some Leica lenses from a customer but never sent the money when in fact he had sold the items on eBay but never sent the lenses despite taking payment. Since his first court appearance, many people have taken to online forums to warn others against Walnes and to recount their own tales as fraud victims.

During today's hearing the court was told that when the customer who sold him the lenses made contact with Walnes, the pensioner delayed and made excuses including saying he didn't have the money because of demands from HMRC. It was also heard that when his victim turned up at his house and demanded the money he was owed, he was only offered £985 when the price agreed had been £2,880.

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The lens in question had been sold on eBay but the buyer never received it and found out that the tracking number provided was false. The prosecution barrister said that what happened in July was "a future continuation of Walnes' behaviour for which he received a two-year suspended sentence. He obviously had not learnt his lesson".

His Honour Judge Robert Linford said Walnes was a "profoundly dishonest man", warning him that his age would not be much of a protection against going to prison. He added: "In June last year you appeared before this court in relation to carrying out fraudulent business and you received a two-year suspended sentence.

"A month on from receiving this sentence you were at it again. A person contacted you about selling photographic equipment and you lied and you misled him and obfuscated. In fact you had sold some of the items already. You are an utterly and thoroughly dishonest human being."

Judge Linford told Walnes that he had been spared jail the first time round because of his age and added nine more months to his original sentence, suspended for two years. He added: "You now have a two years and nine months suspended sentence hanging over you. If you commit any offence in that time we will meet again and I don't care how old you are or what effect prison would have on you. You will go straight inside. I hope that the losers go after you in a civil court."

Walnes was also fined £150 and ordered to pay costs of £1,500.