Man is accused of fraud against upmarket spa

Preston Crown Court
Preston Crown Court

A penniless man has appeared in court accused of defrauding the owner of a swanky day spa of £1.1m in a bogus business deal.

Neil Casson, 48, persuaded Sean Barley, CEO of Nirvana Spa in Berkshire, to invest in a scheme to import sewing machines into the UK.

Mr Barley, giving video link evidence from Reading, told Preston Crown Court Casson repeatedly told him there were complications and delays, but he continued to hand over money in good faith.

First he provided £204,628 from his own bank account and a further £973,940 from the accounts of the upmarket spa. Casson, formerly of Wyrevale Park, Garstang, but now of no fixed abode, had met Barley on holiday in April 2010, jurors were told.

The court was told Casson was a man of no financial means who sustained himself and funded his gambling habit by using other people’s money

Prosecuting, Peter Barr said: “He does so by exploiting what can only be described as the naivety, and maybe, greed in some people and offering them the chance to invest in what can best be called a get rich quick scheme.

“The nature of the investment is for the importation of sewing machines, motor vehicles of heavy plant equipment.

“Needless to say the investors never see a return on their investment and invariably lose their initial investment as well.

“We say there was no business opportunity or deal, there were no sewing machines, Sean Barley never saw any and none were ever delivered – it was all a scam orchestrated by Neil Casson to get money from Sean Barley and his company.”

The jury was told Casson previously faced many counts of fraud in relation to the get rich quick schemes in the run up to this trial which he has since admitted, but still denies two fraud charges and one of converting criminal property in relation to Mr Barley.