A rogue auction house boss, who targeted elderly homeowners in the wealthiest parts of London, selling their valuables without permission and keeping the cash, has been jailed for five and a half years.
Veteran fraudster Peter Taylor, 62, printed up convincing-looking flyers and business cards, presenting himself as a legitimate antiques expert, who could obtain good prices at auction for the victims’ property.
But instead of valuing them he stole the items and sold them for his own gain. Isleworth Crown Court heard the estimated loss to the 11 victims is approximately £267,000.
Peter Taylor, 62, printed up convincing-looking flyers and business cards, presenting himself as a legitimate antiques expert
Jailing him today Judge Sarah Paneth told him: ‘You were motivated by greed and arrogance and the empathy for others you have you used in a negative way because people did trust you.’
The former commodities broker and property developer was released from prison in 2013 and soon built up an antiques business with a £1m annual turnover.
The judge added: ‘You turned to what you described as a passion from boyhood, antiques and valuables and said there was a niche in the market,
‘You saw an opportunity to obtain valuable items and were keen to clear commercial premises and houses.
‘You seem to regard the property of others that is valuable to them both emotionally and financially as yours to sell after they had put their trust in you.
‘You presented yourself as the owner of an auction house and exploited affluent areas of London.’
Taylor had been granted bail after being convicted earlier this year following a lengthy trial to give him the opportunity to make restitution to his many victims.
But rejecting Taylor’s cheaper valuations the judge estimated the fraud at £200,00. ‘You have not shown any remorse.’
Trading under his previous legal name of Peter Tillott he operated in and around Kensington; Fulham; Chelsea; Notting Hill and West Brompton in West London.
A Herend vase and Bon Bon dish which were bought in Knightsbridge, Gloucestershire
Victorian solid silver trinkets were also taken in the scam
Taylor, of Flat 12, 33 St. Margarets Road, St. Margarets, Twickenham, was found guilty of eleven counts of fraud relating to each individual complainant between March, 2016 and February, 2019.
He is a veteran of insurance fraud and a £3m tax scam for which he was jailed for four years a decade ago. He started his antiques business on his release but soon was being dishonest again.
Taylor based himself on a month-to-month tenancy at ‘The Gasworks’ in Fulham, where he agreed to sell property belonging to Caroline Shamash.
‘This was a few months after the licence for your prison sentence had expired,’ said the judge. ‘You took furniture, glassware and lighting and sold them at auction.
‘You never provided anything. You took those items and treated them as your own. You abused the goodwill and trust of decent people from all walks of life, adapting yourself to the consigners you tricked.
‘The victim was left with 50p in her pocket when she confronted you, asking to pay.
‘You were impossible for your victims to find and still used the Gasworks address on invoices months after leaving there.
‘Once you had taken her goods you ignored Caroline Shamash and her partner and admitted yourself during the trial you could not be bothered to respond.’
A Royal Doulton Victorian China bowl. Taylor’s hand can be seen in the image showing the item
A Silk Hereke rug valued by Sotheby’s at £8000 was part of Taylor’s antiques business scam
Another victim was French chef Eric Payet, who had just sold two business premises. ‘You were keen to clear both premises,’ Judge Paneth told him.
‘Where everything has gone and what you did no-one knows. There are no documents at all.’
Taylor’s downfall was largely due to the determination of 65 year-old businessman Stephen Morris, who allowed the defendant to take items from his Chelsea flat.
‘He was an intelligent, honest, hardworking and extremely impressive witness,’ said the judge. Mr Morris says his losses are between £52,000 and £98,000.
The defendant was known to him by his previous name – Peter Tillott – and Mr Morris said in a victim impact statement his ‘belief in the system’ to protect him and his family from ‘predators like Tillott’ was destroyed.
Equally determined to hunt down Taylor was Helen Ford, who allowed him to clear her deceased mother’s home then spotted her valuables in online sales after the defendant said they were worthless.
‘You never intended to provide a valuation at all,’ Judge Paneth told him. ‘You intended to sell the items for your benefit.
‘The impact on her has been devastating, beyond the mere financial impact. You were gaslighting her over her mother’s belongings’
In her victim statement Helen Ford said: ‘I am constantly thinking how I have let my mother down. I will never be able to live with that.
Six Victorian cranberry wine glasses valued at £1,000 were sold by Taylor for between £40 to £60.50
‘I stood and watched my childhood being taken from that house by a man who says I have to prove they are mine. Have I not suffered enough?
‘He took advantage of people when they were at their most vulnerable. He sold my items on eBay and that cuts like a knife. I feel broken.’
Sadly, victim Gill Miller, who lost her china collection, never saw justice, having passed away before the trial.
However, she did say in her victim statement she suffered anxiety and sleeplessness due to Taylor and felt ‘stupid and embarrassed.’
Portugese antique dealer Maria Gabriela Ponce de Leao was another victim. ‘You self-prescribed yourself as an antique expert to her without any experience or training’ the judge told Taylor.
‘You took advantage because you knew she wanted to sell. She was an elderly lady whose first language wasn’t English. What happened to those items? Nobody knows.
‘You took them and treated them as your own and you put in low sales figures because that allowed you to pay-out less. You should have paid out three times more than you did.
‘Anything could be sold for any amount and you put in what figure you chose.’
In her impact statement the victim said: ‘He’s taken my life’s savings.’
Taylor, of Flat 12, 33 St. Margarets Road, St. Margarets, Twickenham, was found guilty of eleven counts of fraud relating to each individual complainant
Retired solicitor Arnold Rosen was another victim. ‘You took his items and again became evasive. He was very distressed by the loss of those items and was vulnerable at the time.’
Victim Lady Patsy Alliott, 89, was impressed by Taylor’s professional-looking flyer, which he had largely copied from Christie’s auction house.
‘She was in her ninetieth year when she gave evidence with immense grace, transparency, honesty and dignity,’ said the judge.
‘She said: ‘There’s no fool like an old fool,’ and you made her feel like an old fool, but those in court will only remember her dignity and integrity.’
Describing Lady Alliott’s victim statement as ‘charmingly short’ Judge Paneth said she simply wrote in capital letters: ‘EXTREME DISTRESS AND ANXIETY. I WANT THE RETURN OF MY ITEMS.’
The court heard four of the victims were ‘elderly women’ and two ‘elderly men’ with others exploited due to their financial circumstances or having lost a loved one.
Taylor was found not guilty of defrauding company director Sheila Newsum, 83, who lives in a £1m West Brompton apartment and responded to Taylor’s business card, which he shoved through her letterbox, the court heard.
She is the Chair and Managing Director of Hunters Associates, an international events company and said she allowed Taylor to remove valuables from her home, suffering a £11,340 loss.
Taylor was also cleared of defrauding another man and woman.