Fraudster fleeced family and friends out of £250,000

Nicola Eccleson
Nicola Eccleson

A former law firm employee turned wheeler dealer conned friends and family out of nearly a quarter-of-a-million pounds in an Apple gadget fraud.

Nicola Eccleson (36) told lifelong friends, family and pals of her relatives she could get iPhones, iPads and iPods for as little as £100.

However the Grangemouth woman was unable to get the top-of-the-range gadgets for the knock-down prices she claimed and was actually paying full price for the expensive electronics.

Eccleson took her victims to the cleaners to the tune of £237,885 in her year-long scam, which saw her loved ones invest thousands and receive a small number of gadgets in return.

Appearing at Paisley Sheriff Court this week, Eccleson, of Oswald Avenue, Grangemouth, was said to have duped her 14 victims by claiming she was entitled to discounts on the expensive electronics through her role as a legal secretary at Glasgow law firm TLT Solicitors – a £20,000-a-year job – and their “friends and family” scheme.

But the discounts did not exist and she boasted she “felt like an Apple delivery driver” as she took money from her own lifelong friends, her brother’s best friend, her husband’s uncle and others.

The con woman, who lived in Erskine, Renfrewshire, at the time of her scam, took small amounts of money from a few customers and delivered the items they had requested, prompting them, and others, to pay her tens of thousands of pounds for more gadgets.

But she took their money, never delivered all the goods and did not give full refunds.

Her scheme began to unravel in August 2013, when Thomas McEntegart, the head of TLT Solicitors, received a phone call from one of Eccleson’s concerned customers.

He said the “friends and family” scheme did not exist and told them to contact the police, leading to the investigation into Eccleston’s scam.

Last month she pled guilty to obtaining the money by forming a fraudulent scheme between August 1, 2012, and August 31, 2013 by telling her victims she “could supply them with various electronic products at discounted prices.”

Defence Solicitor Advocate Des Finnieston said Eccleson had duped her victims for a confidence boost and had not benefited financially from the scam as she had paid full price for the items she did supply.

He explained: “My client never made any material gain from these offences. She did it for the kudos and to make herself appear to be able to get great deals for friends and family.

“The Crown have not put any evidence to the contrary, like secret bank accounts or assets of any nature.”

Sheriff David Pender said he found it “rather hard to believe” that Eccleson, who moved to Grangemouth after her scam unravelled, never made any money from her ruse.

He ruled there was only one way he could deal with her for such a serious offence and jailed her for three years.

A group of Eccleson’s victims, who had gone to court to see her being sentenced, cheered so loudly when she was jailed they were ejected from court.

Unfortunately their bid for compensation for their losses was also flung out by the sheriff, who said: “To award compensation I must be satisfied that you have the means to pay it and I’m not satisfied that you do.

“This doesn’t mean that the victims can’t pursue a civil case.”