A MAN who preyed on a deaf couple's desperate desire for a child was called a ‘devious liar’ by a crown court judge.
Gino Dicaprio, 53, of Old Row, Rawtenstall, was jailed for three and a half years for four counts of confidence fraud at Reading Crown Court on Friday.
Alexia Durran, prosecuting, said Sonia and Neil Musselwhite paid between £10,000 and £12,000 to Dicaprio who promised to help them have two babies by surrogate mothers in Kenya.
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He also conned Mr Musselwhite out of £55,000 and his mother, Doreen, out of £34,000 by persuading them to invest in a property deal in Kenya.
Ms Durran said Dicaprio, who is also deaf, had known the couple for almost 20 years. They met him at a deaf club and regarded him as a friend.
She said Mrs Musselwhite took out a loan of £6,000 to pay a surrogate mother called Melissa in Kenya.
Dicaprio went with the couple to a fertility clinic and pretended to arrange for their eggs and sperm to be sent out to Kenya.
However, the court heard from the clinic that regulations would not allow such a transaction to take place.
Dicaprio then told the couple the baby had Down's Syndrome and they said they would be unable to take it because of their own disabilities.
He said they would lose their money and embarked upon a new arrangement with another Kenyan surrogate mother.
He gave the Musselwhites a photograph of a baby called Amy, however the police were able to trace it to a commercial photographer's website and he confirmed the picture was of his own daughter, Ellie.
Ms Durran said Mr Musselwhite's mother became involved when she realised her son's mortgage had increased from £35,000 to £143,000.
He told her he had remortgaged his house three times to invest in Dicaprio's property deal in Kenya.
Dicaprio had a string of previous convictions for dishonesty and confidence fraud before 1999 and had been imprisoned three times.
Rebecca Randall, defending, said Dicaprio had been abused as a child, but said he acknowledged ‘his actions were motivated by greed’.
Judge John Reddihough gave Dicaprio 18 month concurrent prison sentences for each of the two surrogate baby offences and two year concurrent sentences for each of the property deal frauds - the two sets of sentences to run consecutively making a total of 42 months.
He said: "The evidence in this case demonstrates that you are a devious liar and a scheming fraudsman.
"In relation to Mr and Mrs Musselwhite, you preyed on their emotions, their long-standing wish to have a child."
A confiscation hearing will be held in later this year.