Conman who pretended to be Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes boss jailed
An unemployed conman who posed as the Mercedes Formula 1 team’s chief operations officer to dupe hotel staff and trick other victims into attending “business” meetings in Germany has been jailed for two years.
Stuart Howatson even donned liveried clothing to adopt a glamorous and powerful false persona pretending to be World Champion Lewis Hamilton’s boss, and he ordered computer security systems worth up to 1.1 million US dollars – about £750,000.
He also enjoyed lavish hotel stays without paying in Bewdley and Kidderminster.
Coventry Crown Court heard that the 37-year-old committed 12 counts of fraud and a theft during 2014, netting him several free stays at hotels in north Worcestershire as well as £1,500 from a hotel guest who fell for a bogus job offer.
Opening the facts of Howatson’s offending, prosecutor Sharon Bahia said: “The frauds relate to separate offences all stemming from one central falsehood – that being that the defendant was the chief operations officer of the Mercedes F1 racing team.”
False email accounts purporting to belong to his assistants at Northamptonshire-based Mercedes were set up to book hotel rooms in Bewdley and Kidderminster, Ms Bahia added.
Among four individuals who fell victim to the frauds was an engineer who flew to Cologne with his wife to meet Howatson, who had promised him a job with Mercedes and a company car.
Ms Bahia said of the victim: “He describes the defendant as being very knowledgeable about the workings of Mercedes-Benz.
“This defendant suggested to him that he should come to work for Mercedes-Benz as an operations director. He was offered Bupa health care and Rosetta Stone software in order to learn German.
“He states his disbelief at the lengths the defendant went to in order to con him into believing that he had genuinely been offered a lucrative position.”
Howatson’s lawyer, Nick Devine, told the court the frauds committed against software companies – relating to contracts worth 1.1 million US dollars, £224,000 and 23,904 euros – would not have benefited his client financially.
Mr Devine told Recorder Derek Sweeting QC: “Mr Howatson suffers from a variety of personality disorders that have manifested themselves quite clearly in his behaviour throughout this series of offences.
“The plain fact of the matter was that he was enjoying the fact that he was dealing with these big figures, and the fact he was pretending to be someone with the kind of authority to enter into such contracts.
“It was all about what he got out of the pretence of being somebody in a considerable position of authority in a glamorous line of business.”
Passing sentence, Recorder Sweeting told Howatson – who was jailed in 2010 after inventing an illustrious police career – that his jail term had been reduced by a third because of his guilty pleas.
“You carried off the deception with a great deal of persuasive skill,” he told Howatson, of Fisher Road, Bishops Itchington, Warwickshire.
“The victims have commented on the lengths you went to.
“The real purpose of the fraud was to make you feel better and more powerful, and to carry through the persona of being chief operations officer for the Mercedes-Benz racing team.”
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