‘Prolific and heartless’ serial romance fraudster jailed for 11 years

The police officers whose investigation led to the jailing of a serial romance fraudster for 11 years said he was “the most prolific and heartless” person carrying out this kind of fraud they had ever come across.

David Checkley, who also used the alias David Cohen, was sentenced on Wednesday after being found guilty of 19 counts of fraud and one count of theft after Met detectives linked his offending across the UK and identified a number of high value assets.

The Metropolitan police officers, who cannot be identified as they conduct surveillance as part of their work, said their investigation into Checkley took two years and uncovered at least 10 female victims who were conned out of approximately £100,000.

The victims gave evidence against him during the eight-week trial and provided victim impact statements to the court. Checkley, 65, from St Albans, fabricated lies to trick victims into believing he was a fighter pilot, a Vietnam War veteran and a successful architect with an ex-wife who was an American billionaire.

He came to the attention of detectives in June 2021 after numerous reports of suspicious behaviour from women aged between 40 to 70 years old.

One of Checkley’s victims had been in a relationship with him for five years and he often stayed at her house for three days a week.

During their investigation police officers discovered invoices relating to the purchase of expensive jewellery, a brochure for a large mansion in Hertfordshire and a receipt in a woman’s name for a £7,250 Rolex watch purchased in 2018. A search of the garage uncovered two new Harley Davidson motorbikes worth approximately £40,000 which had been purchased using Checkley’s account. A Mini car, and three Mercedes all linked to Checkley were also found.

The police officers said that while online dating sites had been urged to do more to root out romance scammers there were challenges because on the face of it many relationships conducted on online sites appeared genuine. Once these relationships move to private messaging, such as WhatApp, there is no longer the ability to monitor when fraudsters start to demand money.

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“The emotional impact can be more serious than the financial loss in these cases,” said one officer. “Some of Checkley’s victims thought they were going to be with him for life. We rely on the victims to come forward and report this crime. Regrettably not everyone believes they are a victim and not everyone wants to get involved with a prosecution due to the shame and embarrassment.”

“Fraud is one of the biggest problems we have. We are looking at how we can be more proactive with romance fraud. It’s not rich people being targeted, it’s normal people.”

Checkley was previously jailed for six years and 10 months for similar offences in 2010 after being found guilty of defrauding female victims of £163,000 for 13 specimen charges.

In the earlier prosecution the court heard evidence that one victim lent him £10,000 after he claimed to need money for a vital operation to cure his fictional Parkinson’s disease. Others gave him cash for invented business dealings. One woman ended up losing her house.

Det Supt John Roch, from the Met’s economic crime team, said: “There is no doubt that Checkley is a prolific and systematic fraudster who spun a web of lies to his victims. He abused the honest intentions of his victims in the most callous way. He is a fantasist who claimed to lead an enviable lifestyle but in reality, he is a criminal who deceived innocent people for his own financial gain.

“Most importantly, I want to commend the women who came forward to report Checkley. They have shown incredible strength for following their instincts when something felt amiss and then reporting him to police. Romance fraud is a crime that has both an emotional and financial impact on victims and I hope that Checkley’s sentencing can begin to give some closure to the women in this case.”