A CROOKED businessman has been jailed for ripping off three girlfriends and a work colleague who he conned into lending him money.

Jiro Wilson founded one of the first independent water companies in Britain and used it as a front to swindle £46,000 from the four women and £283,000 from the taxpayer.

He was condemned as a dishonest parasite by a Judge at Exeter Crown Court who mocked the police’s official fraud office as Inaction Fraud and said it was laughable that the Government had paid Wilson so much money without checking his company was genuine.

Wilson founded Tor Water in 2017 despite having no capital of his own. He was living with one of the women victims while two timing her with two of the others.

He did not invest any of their cash in the company and they later discovered he had spent some of it on hiring escorts or going to swingers’ parties. He spent the rest on a luxury lifestyle with frequent visits to restaurants.

The business was granted a licence by Ofwat in 2018 but closed down by them in February 2020 because it had run up £500,000 debts to South West Water, which supplied it on a wholesale basis.

Judge David Evans praised the efforts of the four women to bring him to justice.

They brought a private prosecution when Action Fraud failed to investigate. The case was only taken over by the police and CPS after the case had started.

He awarded the women £500 each out of the Sheriff’s Fund on the grounds that they had exposed Wilson’s frauds.

Wilson (52), previously of Pytte House, Clyst St George, near Topsham, but now homeless, admitted six counts of defrauding the women, one of making a fraudulent claim for a £50,000 Covid bounceback loan and one of defrauding the HMRC out of £283,000 in false VAT refunds.

He was jailed for six years and barred from being a company director for 15 years by Judge David Evans at Exeter Crown Court, who set a timetable for a Proceeds of Crime investigation which will identify and seize any remaining assets.

He told Wilson: “For much of the period between 2015 and 2022 you lived as a dishonest parasite, maintaining a lifestyle with other people’s money, which you obtained by emotional blackmail.

“You promised the women the money would be used for your so-called company Tor Water and caused each one very considerable distress and damaged each of their lives. You seem to have spent all the money you took on yourself.

“I have no doubt that you knew at every step of the way you were acting deliberately and dishonestly. The business was never properly grounded in financial reality and underlying it all was your hope of getting rich quick.”

The Judge said the public would be alarmed at how easily Wilson was able to carry out the Covid loan and VAT frauds after Tor Water lost its licence and effectively ceased trading without any checks being done.

Miss Mary McCarthy, prosecuting, said Wilson had been in relationships with three of the women and knew the fourth because he had worked with her at South West Water and employed her briefly at Tor Water.

He gave the victims the impression that he was a successful businessman and that Tor Water was a thriving company even though he had as little as £4 left in his bank account when he borrowed cash from one of them.

One victim invested £20,000 which she had been left by her father but never got any shares and only had £500 returned. She ended up unable to pay her rent and she and her children were forced to move back in with her mother.

Another borrowed £10,000 on a credit card and is still struggling to meet the minimum monthly repayments more than five years later.

Wilson was two timing the women behind their backs and conned another girlfriend into lending him £3,000 because he said he would go to jail for not paying council tax if she didn’t.

He had previously owned a flat in Exmouth and told the victims he would repay them when he sold it but they later discovered he had already borrowed so much money on it that he was in negative equity. It was eventually repossessed.

Tor Water had already been closed down by Ofwat when Wilson obtained a £50,000 government Covid bounceback loan. He also sent in 27 bogus VAT returns until being arrested last summer.

One victim read out her personal statement to the judge. She said: “I was totally devastated when I found how he had deceived me and all the other women. I felt as if I had been hit by a lorry. I felt betrayed and felt I had let my family down.”

Another wrote: “I was always supportive during our relationship but I did not know he was off seeing other women and spending my money on escorts. He was very manipulative. He always had an answer or an excuse.

“Looking back, I can see how stupid I was to believe him. He was very convincing. Finding out about his numerous affairs shocked me. It made me feel I had been taken for an idiot.”

Mr Warren Robinson, defending, said had intended to found a genuine and successful business but it had not worked out. He had admitted the frauds against the Government and taxman at the earliest opportunity.

References from two friends showed that there was another side to him and that he has helped others when they needed it.

After the case, Detective Constable Dale Wolverson, who led the inquiry after it was taken over by police, said: "Jiro Wilson has been shown to be a serial fraudster who has taken every opportunity to convince others to give him money under false pretences.

He has targeted individuals, organisations and government departments in his quest for others to fund his lifestyle and in doing so used various excuses to those he targeted in an effort to convince them he was someone that could be trusted.

"The effect of his behaviour has had deep and long lasting effects on the individuals he defrauded. He entered into relationships with those he targeted and then repeatedly betrayed their trust by defrauding them time and again under the guise of helping him launch a fledgling business venture.

"The consequences for those involved have not only been financial, but also emotion and mental. When someone no longer served his purpose Jiro Wilson moved on, walking away from their lives and leaving them to pick up the pieces of the devastation he had caused.

"When his business venture failed and he lost that source of income, he saw the Covid pandemic as an opportunity to boost his bank account by £50,000 by claiming a business loan which he instead spent on supporting his lifestyle spending. He then saw another opportunity by fraudulently claiming VAT back from HMRC for a business that was no longer trading.

"Today’s sentence is very welcome and vindicates those victims who have been waiting years to prove Jiro Wilson was a fraudster. It addresses the criminal behaviour Jiro Wilson maintained over several years and will now enable law enforcement to begin to trace any assets he has in order to pay back what he has taken. It also sends a message to those committing fraud that they are not untouchable.”