A LOTTERY conman who faked a £8.4 million win is now being hunted by the police after allegedly conning three grans out of £400,000.
John Eric Wells was jailed for three years in 2001 for the scam but police say they are looking for him in connection with three high value “romance frauds”.
The 61-year-old fantasist, who inspired the movie “Can’t Buy Me Love” starring Martin Kemp and Michelle Collins, is on South Yorkshire Police’s wanted list.
One of Wells’s alleged victims, Hazel Wilkins, 70, who lives with her daughter from Rusper, West Sussex, claims Wells stole her life savings of almost £63,000.
“That man has ruined my life and who knows how many others,” she told the Mirror.
“I had a lovely family home, a great job and I was happy when I met him. Now I have nothing and I will never be happy again. It’s too late to get back what he has taken from me.
He convinced her to leave her job, telling her he had a 500-seater restaurant in Guernsey that she could manage, which never materialised, she alleges.
Hazel said he took her cruises and they stayed in penthouse suites in top hotels.
Wells claimed told her he owned dozens of hotels around the world and pretended to go frequent “business trips”, often sending her photos from exotic-looking locations.
“LOVE IS BLIND”
In reality he was working in his home town of Doncaster, South Yorks, where he was living a double life, she claims.
He was carrying out an identical scam on another woman, who Hazel has since been in touch with
Wells was taking money from my account to spend on her.
Hazel says Wells also claimed he had cancer, and cancelled their wedding plans five times, saying that friends and family had died.
Wells vanished in 2017,she claims she’s been paying back £17,000 in loans he took out in her name, which has wiped out half her pension.
He also promised to buy her daughters a house but backed out at the last minute, leaving one of them, who had a newborn baby, desperate and homeless.
Hazel felt she had to sell her own home to buy somewhere for her daughter and new grandchild to live – then had to move in with them herself.
“I feel so stupid. But he was convincing, charming, funny and kind. Love is blind and I was head over heels,” said Hazel.
Using the name Howard Walmsley, painter and decorator Wells told his wife he had won a jackpot of up to £8.4m.
He promised to buy a £300,000 farmhouse, which prompted the couple who owned it to move into a caravan to speed up the sale.
Wells also conned banks, a solicitor, an architect, a car firm, and two women friends.
He persuaded banks and businesses to give him credit and car firms to lend him vehicles.
South Yorkshire police said in a statement said Wells is also believed to go by the names Howard Walmsley and Howard Hemmings.
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He is wanted in connection with three high value romance frauds, during which three victims lost money totalling more than £400,000, said the force.
“The offences are reported to have taken place from September 2014 onwards. The victims lived in locations across the UK including Doncaster, Sussex and London.
“Police would like to hear from anyone who has seen or spoken to Wells recently, or has information which may help officers with their enquiries. It is possible Wells is currently living outside the UK.”
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