Peter Grant Holbrook, aged 75, who presented himself as a Financial Advisor, has confessed to deceiving vulnerable clients and siphoning nearly £1 million from them. He was recently sentenced at Bradford Crown Court, receiving a 5-year and 3-month custodial sentence for offences under the Fraud Act 2006.
Peter Holbrook, residing in Oxenhope, Keighley, came under investigation by West Yorkshire Trading Standards (WYTS) and faced legal proceedings in March of this year. Initially, Holbrook entered a ‘no indication plea,’ but later, on June 29th, he appeared in Bradford Crown Court and pleaded ‘guilty’ to seven out of the eight charges brought against him.
His fraudulent activities spanned over a decade, commencing in 2011 and impacting eight victims and their families.
Holbrook conducted his activities under the trading names of ‘PGH Associates’ and ‘Will Associates.’ He claimed to have an office in Leeds, but West Yorkshire Trading Standards could not find any record of such an office.
Holbrook admitted to defrauding the following amounts from his victims:
£384,303 from Joan Dobson
£231,625 from Barbara Middleton
£150,000 from Christopher Hatton
£115,829 from Paul Tonks, Mandy Child, and Suzanne Cropper
£58,773 from Pamela Chambers
£39,307 from Kathleen Bottomley
£20,000 from Marjorie Calvert
Numerous complaints were filed with West Yorkshire Trading Standards regarding Holbrook’s business practices. He exploited his professional background and experience to craftily deceive his victims, creating an illusion of credibility and integrity in his work. Victims believed that he was diligently investing their funds and managing their financial affairs in their best interests, but this was far from the truth.
After the death of a client’s spouse, Holbrook would offer to assist the surviving individual in ‘investing’ their estate or handling various financial matters during a vulnerable period. He even went so far as to suggest that he could help one client “hide the money to prevent any Care Home fees.”
Holbrook then forged documents to convince other clients that his actions were legitimate, underscoring the extent of his efforts to defraud elderly and vulnerable individuals.
When one family member raised concerns about Holbrook’s actions, he used various tactics to evade contact and subsequently ignored them. Consequently, the matter was reported to West Yorkshire Trading Standards, leading to the identification of more victims.
Holbrook admitted that he had not invested any of the victims’ money and instead used it to fuel his online gambling habit. Unfortunately, this pattern was consistent across all his victims, resulting in significant financial losses for most of them due to their trust in Holbrook.
In 2011, while handling probate for a client, Holbrook offered to invest a substantial portion of the family’s savings. In 2013, the same family tried to contact Holbrook to withdraw their investments, but he ignored all their attempts and spun a web of lies, including false claims of travelling to America to retrieve the supposedly invested funds. To further his deception, Holbrook produced fraudulent letters from high street banks explaining delays in the victims’ receipt of their money. These letters were later revealed to be fake. Ultimately, in 2017, Holbrook partially reimbursed this family’s invested funds.
Holbrook’s fraudulent activities persisted. In January 2017, following the death of one victim’s husband, she approached Holbrook, who organized meetings and referred to her as a “wealthy woman.” He proceeded to consolidate the late husband’s money and investments, all the while using these funds to fuel his online gambling addiction.
In 2018, Holbrook was contacted by the family of a deceased gentleman to handle probate, and he took a substantial sum of money from this family, selling their family home at an underserved price through an auction site.
In 2020, Holbrook began exploiting another recently widowed victim, initially hired only for probate and will-related work. However, over time, Holbrook befriended the victim and persuaded her to invest in what he referred to as “his client account.” Investigations revealed that this account was, in fact, his personal bank account. Holbrook once again appropriated a significant amount of money from this victim and her late husband’s hard-earned savings and investments.
In the same year, another recently widowed victim contacted Holbrook to obtain a copy of her and her late husband’s will. Holbrook encouraged the family to engage him for probate, which they agreed to. Over time, Holbrook systematically drained a substantial sum of money from this grieving widower to fuel his gambling addiction. None of this money was ever returned to the victim.
Tragically, some of Holbrook’s victims have since passed away due to their age and vulnerabilities. Nevertheless, their families have submitted Victim Impact Statements for Holbrook’s sentencing at court.
Some extracts include- “they have lost faith and trust in people”, “they have suffered with sleep deprivation”, “…incredibly angry that their Mum’s money has been stolen”, “it is absolutely sickening what Holbrook has done “, “Holbrook committed a deliberate and callous act of deception”, “we have struggled with such a predatory and premeditated act by Holbrook”, “We feel that if it hadn’t been for the pandemic, Holbrook wouldn’t have been able to exploit and take advantage of my grandma in the same way”, “Holbrook didn’t have any thought or compassion for his victims when he was defrauding them and taking their money”, “ it was a heinous crime”.
Recorder Thyne KC said during sentencing of Peter Holbrook “You selected your victims who were either elderly or at a time they were most vulnerable after the loss of a loved one. You prepared and presented false documents and passbooks furthering your deception. You told lies to victims and their families when they became suspicious, and even arranged a phone call masquerading as a police officer to say it was not a police matter.’
‘In the first two interviews, you denied and lied stating you were a rich, professional gambler maintaining that the victim’s money was in offshore accounts. Only in July 2021, during the interview (conducted by West Yorkshire Trading Standards) did you admit your guilt and addiction’.
‘I have read the many personal statements from the people affected in full to comprehend the magnitude of your offending. You took away their financial security and hard-earned money, plans for retirement, houses had to be sold in order to pay care home fees, victims suffered intolerable anxiety and mental health issues. They have suffered deep hurt, and misunderstandings within the families.’
Recorder Thyne KC further stated ‘ No sentence would come close to undoing the harm you have caused. In reality, you had numerous opportunities to stop. Culpability falls into the higher category, due to deliberately targeting vulnerable people with significant planning. Holbrook avoided scrutiny over many years with many victims.’
Holbrook displayed little empathy toward his victims and his own family and had multiple chances to halt his fraudulent activities, but he chose not to do so.
Councillor Melanie Jones, Chair of the West Yorkshire Joint Services Committee which oversees the work of Trading Standards said, ‘Fortunately, cases like this are rare. Peter Holbrook preyed on vulnerable people, often during times of grieving following family bereavements, offering to help with probate and other investments, taking advantage of the position of trust he had created. He took victims’ money and used it for his own benefit. This has been a long and complex investigation by Trading Standards, and I would like to thank the victims and families for involvement in what has been a very distressing case for them.’
Linda Davis, West Yorkshire Trading Standards Manager said ‘This was substantial fraud, with many victims losing their life savings to someone they trusted with their money. Holbrook built relationships with them to enable him to persuade them to let him manage their financial affairs, whilst all the time using their money to fund his gambling habit. The sentence today reflects the severity of his offending and the impact on victims. His actions have caused immense stress and worry to those victims and their families, who have lost significant sums in life savings.’
A timetable under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 was established by the Court, and a subsequent financial hearing in this matter will be scheduled.