Man who stole stepson’s inheritance jailed

Photo provided by mum Mary Shepherd of the family together when Joshua was around 13 with Iain Shepherd, centre
Photo provided by mum Mary Shepherd of the family together when Joshua was around 13 with Iain Shepherd, centre

A ‘despicable’ Royal Navy veteran has been jailed for three years and eight months for stealing his ten-year-old stepson’s inheritance left to him by his late father.

Shamed Iain Shepherd siphoned £58,895.78 from Joshua Powell’s account over a three-year period between December 8, 2006, and February 10, 2010.

The 56-year-old, from Bognor Regis, had been trusted to safeguard the money by his wife and Joshua’s mother, Mary Shepherd.

But instead, the ‘devious’ retired Lieutenant Commander pilfered the accounts, leaving his loving family totally in the dark about his crime.

Portsmouth Crown Court heard how calculating Shepherd had set up a Royal Bank of Scotland savers account in his name in December 2004, eight months after the death of Joshua’s father, Stephen – who had served with Shepherd in the navy.

Then, in December 2006, a total of £83,255.82 was transferred into the account following the sale of Mr Powell’s property at Linfield Copse, Pulborough.

But Portsmouth Crown Court heard how scheming Shepherd had set up another secret account in his wife’s name by forging her signature and changing all correspondence to his home in Aldwick Road, Bognor Regis.

In the three years and two months that followed, he began transferring ‘numerous’ cash sums, ranging from £200 to £300, as well as larger sums of more than £5,000, to accounts overseas in Italy, prosecutor Mike Mason told the court.

Shepherd’s actions came to light after he was reported to the police by his wife in 2017.

At one point Mr Mason said he admitted he owed Joshua at least ‘£80,000’ in payments and interest.

“He was supposed to safeguard (Joshua’s) financial interests not act against them,” Mr Mason said.

“He has not only failed to safeguard Joshua’s interests but he has taken his money for his own use. Even if he pays the money back, which he has not but still promises to do so, he is still guilty of fraud by his position by putting Joshua’s inheritance at risk.

“Had he invested the money in a long-term investment account there would have been a balance of a capital plus interest waiting for Joshua when he turned 18 – a substantial sum.”

At the time of his crimes, the court heard that he had been a prominent citizen, acting as the president of the Chichester Chamber of Commerce for five years.

He was also an EU ambassador for the sea, a former chairman of the Coastal West Sussex and had been presented an MBE by Prince William in 2015 for his services to the maritime sector and the economy in Chichester. But Shepherd was also bankrupt – a fact he lied about to his loved ones, Mr Mason said.

The fraud has left Mr Powell – now 23 – devastated. In a victim impact statement read out in court, the University of Portsmouth graduate, of Whyke Road, Chichester, said he hoped to use the money to pay off his student debt and pay for his ADHD medication.

He said: “I would like to see him punished and go to prison and have his MBE taken away from him and for people to know the despicable apology of a human being he is.

“All he really cares about is his image and reputation, he does not care to what extent he hurts the people he knows.

‘To take away this standing in society is the only way that he will feel punished.”

Representing himself, Shepherd said he was sorry for his crimes and that he was unaware he was bankrupt at the time. He claimed he had been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and had turned to alcohol.

Speaking from the dock, Shepherd added: “I apologise unreservedly to everyone that’s been affected by this, which I’m truly sorry. That effect goes much further than what’s been said in court.

“What I did was firmly dreadful.”

Sentencing, Judge William Ashworth said: ‘This was a clear abuse of trust. It was calculated with an aspect of greed. The fraud was perpetrated over a long period of time. It was committed on your stepson, who was aged ten, whom you acted as trustee for. You had become a trustee despite the fact that you were an undischarged bankrupt which you had not declared before being made a trustee, which in itself would have disqualified you from acting as a trustee.

“You defrauded your stepson in the sum of £58,895, taking the money gradually.

“Despite being challenged by your wife and by police in interview you have prevaricated and repeatedly lied while making promises of repayment which you never intended to keep.”

Shepherd, who pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing, was jailed for three years and six months for fraud and a further two months for two counts of failing to surrender. He was ordered to pay £19,497.70 in compensation.

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