Beneficiaries conned out of £100k by ‘heir-hunter’

An ‘heir-hunter’ has been sentenced to two years in prison after taking advantage of estate beneficiaries.

Collecting almost £100,000, Daniel Morgan Bates researched family trees under the company name ‘Morgan Bates Services Ltd’. Having identified the relevant information, he would target the beneficiaries, having traced them back to the estates of deceased people.

Once he had informed beneficiaries that they were eligible to benefit from an unclaimed will, Bates claimed any funds they were owed by making them sign contracts.

Whilst he had initially agreed to hand over 75% of the money received, he failed to do so, cutting off communication with the victims as well as other aggressive methods to deter them from pursuing him.

Commenting on the significance of the case was Detective Constable Paul Gilmour. He highlighted the unregulated nature of the industry, as well as stressing the importance of seeking professional legal advice prior to relinquishing important documentation.

“We believe Bates contacted beneficiaries from various public sources including the Unclaimed Estates List published by the Bono Vacantia Division of the Government Legal Department (GLD) to give him authority over the estate. This enabled him to administer the estate without the need or expense of a solicitor. Once he obtained control of the estate, he contacted the various financial institutions to close bank accounts and once in receipt of the estate monies into his bank account, he cut off all communication with the beneficiaries, who saw nothing of their inheritance.

“In many cases the family beneficiaries were vulnerable, either elderly or unaware of the legal processes involved in probate. This made them easy targets of the fraudulent activity that Bates engaged in. Families were left in limbo waiting for an update which never came. Heir hunting is an unregulated industry. This case has highlighted the importance of seeking proper legal advice where appropriate, so that any process is fully understood, before signing over valuable documents.

“Bates has failed to pay back any of the victims and we will now be taking proceedings against him to seek confiscation of his available assets. There will be a hearing under the Proceeds of Crime Act at Portsmouth Crown Court on 3 November.”

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