A CONVICTED fraudster who stole �70,000 to hire a Bentley before fleeing to France in a fishing boat has been imprisoned for an extra 23 months.

George Schouten, 39, previously of Nine Mile Ride, Finchampstead, appeared at Reading Crown Court last Tuesday (16/7), charged with failing to appear, contempt of court, and failure to pay his confiscation order.

Schouten pleaded guilty in 2010 to three counts of fraud by false representation after he defrauded three victims of a total of �70,000.

On two occasions he told his victims he owned a show-jumping team sponsored by IBM and that he was the son, or stepson, of someone very high up in IBM.

On the other occasion he said he ran an investment programme in the import & export of microchip technology.

Property was recovered & restitution paid to two of the victims prior to his conviction of about �40,000 leaving one victim's loss of �30,000.

After his conviction, he was due to be sentenced on 30 June 2010 at the same court but failed to appear, and he was sentenced to 27 months imprisonment in his absence.

It was discovered the morning before sentencing he had sailed across to France in a hired fishing boat. A warrant for his arrest was issued.

As police had previously obtained a Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) restraint order against the assets owned by Schouten, the court authorised enforcement receivers to sell any known assets in order to pay the confiscation order. By July 2011 a substantial amount had been recovered and has subsequently been paid to the victim, leaving �6,500 outstanding.

In April 2013, police arrested Schouten in Spain and he was returned to the UK to begin his 27 month sentence for the fraud offences.

He had apparently been living and working there since he fled the country.

Schouten appeared at court last Tuesday and pleaded guilty to additional offences. For failing to appear he was sentenced to six months imprisonment and for failing to fully pay the confiscation order, he was ordered to serve two months.

Schouten also pleaded guilty to four counts of breaching the terms of his restraint order between 2009 and 2010, as he spent over �30,000 on such things as hiring a Bentley Continental car, paying for a season's polo club membership, rental on the flat he was residing in and livery of polo ponies at stables. He was therefore found in contempt of court and sentenced to 15 months imprisonment. All sentences will be served consecutively to his 27 month original sentence.

Jennifer Bailey, Financial Investigator of Thames Valley Police Economic Crime Unit, said: "The defendant has felt the full force of the Proceeds of Crime Act in receiving substantial sentences of imprisonment in addition to that handed down in respect of the crimes he committed.

"It serves to show that when the court makes these orders we will punish defendants for non-compliance, irrespective of the passage of time.The outstanding amount of his confiscation order remains."