How cash-flashing conman David Bowerman took 200 friends to the cleaners
DRESSED in a tux, pictured with the Ace of Spades, it's not hard to imagine the lavish lifestyle David Bowerman lived.
All-night parties and flash cars dominated the 35-year-old conman's life before he handed himself into police, for swindling more than 200 local people, including his own mother Cynthia of £36,000, his fiancée and sister-in-law of large sums, and even Manchester City goalkeeper Richard Wright, out of £400,000.
Last week, the former Great Baddow pupil, of Bramwoods Road, pleaded guilty to 33 counts of fraud at Chelmsford Crown Court.
He is in custody awaiting sentence.
He stole more than £5 million from friends and family between 2008 and 2010 to feed his gambling addiction, before launching an online anti-gambling website and forum called Gambling Reform & Society Perception (GRASP).
A former friend and victim of the former mortgage advisor, who did not want to be named, said: "He was a supporter of Chelmsford City Football club, where I met him.
"He targeted friends and family members, including his fiancée and sister-in-law. He went to Great Baddow High School and had kept a lot of friends around him.
"People trusted him and recommended his company, Shearer Hare, to their friends and family."
Shearer Hare was Bowerman's own sports betting firm, based in New Writtle Street, Chelmsford, which he operated as a Ponzi scheme, where he used investors' money to pay off other investors to keep them sweet and get more victims on board.
He knowingly took people's money to gamble on their behalf on Betfair.
Its website is different to a normal bookmaker's, as it allows people to take bets from other punters online, often at largely inflated odds, so they can effectively be the bookmaker. He also tricked people into investing money with him, to either pay off their mortgages, as with the former Chelmsford City Football Club chairman Peter Stroud, or by selling investment bonds ranging from £2,000 to £400,000.
The victim said: "He always had to be the centre of attention. And you had to agree with what he said and thought.
"People on the outside can't begin to see what it was like. We weren't stupid, people trusted him and had known him for years. He is very, very, very clever and manipulative. He could get between friends in the group for no reason. Mentally, the bloke is capable of anything.
"He has now set up this GRASP forum against gambling and it is just a load of crap. He is doing it to try and convince the judge to give him a shorter jail sentence."
Gambling Reform & Society Perception was set up by Bowerman two months after he handed himself in to police.
It states that its aim is "to prevent other people from suffering from this secret addiction".
"I believe his girlfriend is standing by him, as are his two brothers," said his victim. "I am not sure about his mum, but I know that he took her money at the end and so maybe it was to pay off people he owed money to. He brainwashed a lot of people.
"He would pay dividends each month, so it looked like a good thing.
"He was like the bookmaker, but I would say that he was definitely betting, we just don't know if he was winning or losing.
"People didn't question it because they had known him for years, or they had been recommended the scheme through a good friend who knew him."
Bowerman supported Watford Football Club and set up lavish parties, taking his clients into a box and providing free drinks for everyone.
"He had his company logo all over the field and he provided free drinks at a lot of events," said his former friend.
"He was constantly showing people how well he was doing. No one would have thought he was losing their money.
"He had about six people working for him, including his sister-in-law, but I am quite sure that they didn't know what was going on.
"The thing that gets me is he is excusing his behaviour and saying it was all down to his addiction. Yes, he was addicted to gambling, you could see that from his mood swings. If a game was won he would be happy, but really moody if they lost.
"He had a problem, but my issue is with the lifestyle he was leading.
"He bought an Audi for about £40,000 and then got an Aston Martin a year later. He would take his girlfriend to stay at Claridge's and got himself a £5,000 watch.
"He held lots of parties and you would go there and have a great time. You saw the benefits of his money and didn't complain then, you just thought he was being flash.
"I had no idea what was happening. The first I heard was when I had an e-mail from the police, giving me a helpline to call."
Coming clean: Forum confession
BOWERMAN openly talked about his gambling addiction on the GRASP forum, going by the pseudonym of Smokey.
January 27, 2011
Pull the phone lead out before I went to bed, so debt collectors wouldn't be able to speak to my girlfriend from 8 till 9am, then pop back at lunchtime to hide the post.
Go back to work and think of excuses to make to bosses as to why banks kept phoning me. What a stressful life and glad I'm out of it.
I remember Mrs Smokes used to pay £250 into a savings account each month, I knew her pin and would withdraw it immediately to gamble it to try and win my losses.
I hid her statements for 14 months until one day she went into the bank to ask why she didn't even get an annual one.
I remember seeing her face as she walked into the pub to find me, my heart sank, I knew she had found out. What an absolute evil moron to be doing that to someone's savings to try and gamble my way out.
January 29, 2011
My goal is to make it out of prison in one piece, in the way-distant future, and to start my place back in society again and work my backside off to provide for Mrs Smokes.
I did fall into a trap that 97 per cent of other people don't, for whatever reason, I was a gambler who enjoyed a flutter and would review the results when I had time.
Then at some point I fell into the trap of allowing it to be something far greater, affecting my work, family, health, financial state etc, etc.
For 11 years all I wanted to do was gamble, I couldn't say NO, which had devastating effects.
We're all different though because, if I'm honest, I didn't stop for me, I stopped because of the hurt I was causing. After about 100 days I started to view gambling differently and since then I've given myself a chance, I've remained clean and I can say now if I do return to gambling it's because I've made an idiotic decision and not because I have an addiction.
February 11, 2011
It's been tough, but I'm in a much better mental place than I was. Gambling every day while not wanting to was a horrible hell and prison will be a breeze compared to what I was going through.
I found one statement from my mad years of betting (pictured right). This is one month, it's all on betting, and this went on for years. I was never asked a question, I wasn't even taken out for a drink. LOL (laugh out loud). Social responsibility?
The bank never questioned me either on where the money was coming from or if all was okay as I was betting every day.
May 16, 2012
Yesterday I was charged 37 times with various offences relating to my gambling addiction.
I will appear at magistrates' court next month and then prepare my case for the crown court.
The industry want me to go quietly, they have the wrong man.
We must learn from a case like mine and start making the industry take some responsibility like I am.
July 18, 2012
Since August 2010, anyone I've met in the real world away from the forum, I decided not to disclose my case to or what I was going through.
I didn't want to be in a position where people were thinking about what I might have done, or the sentence I may receive...
There are people I've worked with and people I continue to work with who have no idea that one day I won't return their calls or mails...
I guess I just want to say sorry to anyone if they feel I've let them down by not telling them what's happened and what I'm about to go through.
You have to understand that there has been no manual for a situation like mine. Either way, whatever decision I made, it wasn't going to be the right one for some...
I committed fraud because of my addiction. It's a sad fact that if you take away the addiction I'm the least likely person to be in trouble with the police, yet here I am. Gambling turned me into a criminal. I haven't got a penny left of the money I obtained because I simply gambled it all, it's what us addicts do until we say enough is enough.
This addiction is powerful and destroys lives and I'm taking responsibility for the regrettable things I've done.
I do believe that responsibility should be a four-way street between the addict, government, banks and the industry.
Fraud expert Darren Jones: Some will support him and some will loathe him
THERE is normally a reason for someone to begin a campaign of fraud. Whether they are in debt themselves, or want to keep up a certain type of lifestyle.
Bowerman appeared popular and looked successful, he was driving around in expensive cars and gave the impression he was credible. Fraudsters have to look credible, because people have to believe them. This is crucial for someone committing fraud.
The whole time, the fraud would have been gathering momentum and investors would have received money back at first, adding to his credibility inducing more people to invest.
I think his problem did get out of control, everyone starts small and it just gets bigger and bigger. The problem really came when people were asking him for their money back and he couldn't give it to them. I am sure investors were telling Bowerman they were going to report him to the police, or had. At this point, Bowerman knew the fraud was over and handed himself in to the police.
He was an amateur and probably came across the scam by chance. He probably thought it was a good opportunity when he saw the fraud begin to grow and the money he could obtain.
I think it is highly possible that more than £5million was taken in his scams.
The police in a case such as this will only bring a number of specimen charges to court and I think it is highly likely that some people's losses have not been counted in those sums.
We can only hope there are recoverable assets, so some of the money can be paid back, but for many of the victims it is unlikely they will see much of a return on their investment.
Each victim will feel something different; there is always a broad spectrum of feelings. Some will be supporting him and some will loathe him.
Fraudsters as a rule do not care and do not consider what the long-lasting effect of their actions has on their victims; they are never going to be able to pay the money back.