2:40pm Wednesday 4th June 2014
By Dale Haslam
A MAN who impersonated a celebrity auctioneer was foiled when bank staff in Prestwich spotted he was a fake.
Anthony Wolstencroft walked into the Natwest Bank in Bury New Road claiming to be BBC1 Bargain Hunt presenter Charles Hanson, and demanded £3,000.
But workers were suspicious — and gathered the finger print evidence police needed to snare him.
The 27-year-old postal worker, of Thorndale Court, Blackley, was spared jail on Tuesday after Bolton Crown Court Recorder Philip Curran handed him a 12-month community order and ordered him to carry out 200 hours’ community service.
Recorder Curran said: “This is a very serious offence. Don’t regard this as being a soft option.
“If you do anything like this again you will go to prison.”
The bizarre incident took place at 2.30pm on January 7 this year when Wolstencroft walked into the bank carrying a fake driving licence and bank details of Mr Hanson’s business, Derbyshire-based Hanson Auctioneers.
The court heard the driving licence bore the genuine details of Hanson — a 36-year-old antiques expert who has presented Bargain Hunt for a decade — but the photograph was of Wolstencroft.
Prosecution counsel Andrew Smith said Wolstencroft appeared nervous and edgy to the cashier when he asked to withdraw “just £3,000, only £3,000.”
He handed over the driving licence, described by Mr Smith as an “excellent forgery”.
The cashier asked him to sign a withdrawal form and then alerted her manager, at which point Wolstencroft made his excuses and left.
Later, police matched a fingerprint on the form to the defendant The court heard the fraudster told police he met a man called Kevin at an open day for his employer TNT.
Kevin owed Wolstencroft money and persuaded him he could get it back by withdrawing the cash from Natwest using the documents.
Wolstencroft told police he was stupid and gullible to fall for Kevin’s ploy and that he was remorseful for what he had done.
However, Recorder Curran said: “Though your story has some holes in it, I cannot fully disprove it.”
At an earlier hearing, Wolstencroft admitted fraud and possessing a fraudulent document.
Recorder Curran heard he has a strong work ethic and had recently increased the number of hours he works at TNT so he can provide for his family.
During the investigation, police revealed details of the fraud to Mr Hanson, who last year overcame testicular cancer and the loss of a child at birth.
He went on to help raise £29,000 for stillbirth charity Sands by doing the Great North Run.
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