London Colney lifestyle coach who defrauded Premier League striker spared jail (From St Albans & Harpenden Review)
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London Colney lifestyle coach who defrauded Premier League striker Peter Odemwingie spared jail
A lifestyle coach from London Colney, who defrauded a Premier League striker and six other clients out of more than £80,000, has been spared jail.
Claire Duke was shown mercy by a judge at Stafford Crown Court after pledging to pay back tens of thousands of pounds to her victims, including Stoke City footballer Peter Odemwingie.
The 38-year-old, whose business offered concierge services and organised holidays and trips abroad, pleaded guilty to seven counts of fraud.
Passing sentence, Recorder David Mason QC accepted that Duke's business had encountered difficulties and had not been set up or designed as a fraud from the outset.
Duke sobbed in the dock as the judge told her: "You appear to be someone who on the face of it is terrified of the court's powers, and accepting that what you have done was appalling.
"You have pleaded guilty to seven matters of fraud involving professional, hard-working people wanting to spend money on holidays and treats."
The judge continued that all the victims of the offences would no doubt be shocked and appalled that their money had been "shifted in different directions" by Duke, leading to an outstanding loss of around £64,000.
The offence committed against Odemwingie, who has also played for Cardiff City, related to events between April and August 2012 and sums totalling around £22,000.
Recorder Mason told Duke: "Some of these people may have been wealthy, but that doesn't make any difference. It's their money."
Duke, who was given a two-year custodial sentence suspended for two years, said she was deeply sorry for the stress and upset she had caused.
She said: "I would just like to pass on my sincere apologies to everyone."
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