Grifter Lived Dream Life While Presenting Worthless Cheques in Two Million Pound Sting
A FAKE high-society Iranian woman conned top jewellers and art galleries into extending her generous credit terms, which she immediately repaid by defaulting. Shahra Marsh, 52, was found guilty on Wednesday at Southwark Crown Court of fraud worth £2,000,000 as the accomplished grifter lived a Walter Mitty lifestyle.
She lived in expensive flats in exclusive areas of London, wore designer clothes and spent her time buying works of art, antiques and rare jewellery.
But the reality was very different. Her rent was unpaid and her luxury collectables and glamorous lifestyle were the product of a multi-million pound fraud which duped prominent auction houses and art dealers.
Shahra Marsh was born in Iran and first came to this country about 20 years ago when she married a British man.
Police described her as a "comfortably off" housewife who led a seemingly quiet life.
But something changed as in 2004 the newly-divorced Marsh was convicted of fraud and served 10 months in prison.
After her release she travelled between London, Paris and Geneva cultivating relationships with auction houses and art dealers.
SOME RECOVERED ITEMS Diamond ring from Guy Ellia worth £110,000 A jade and diamond pendant worth £12,478 Pearl necklace and earrings worth £22,935 A pair of earrings from De Grisogono worth £23,850 A watch and ring from Leon Hatot valued at £27,120
She dressed like a woman with significant wealth in designer outfits, fur coats and expensive jewellery, and would appear in shops laden with purchases from Dior and Cartier.
She also occasionally used a false name, Shahra Christina Sylvia Marsh de Savigny.
She befriended assistants, and might make a series of visits before she actually tried to buy anything - by which time she had struck up a rapport with staff.
With a combination of charm, audacity and what police called "calculated organisation" she managed to trick one auction house and art dealer after another.
She would pay for high-value items with personal cheques without the money to support them, and the cheques would later bounce.
If a shop said it would have to wait for a cheque to clear, she threatened to call off the sale as she was leaving the country or had wanted the item for a specific occasion.
Under threat of losing a valuable sale staff would often obtain permission to hand the goods over.
Prestigious auction houses including Sotheby's, Bonhams and Christie's all fell foul of her act.
But her appearance of a wealthy, well-educated, articulate woman was all the more plausible because it was not entirely false.
Marsh's collection included items by famous jewellers Tiffany and Cartier
She lived in flats in the Docklands, Isle of Dogs, Bayswater and Mayfair.
She had been educated in Paris, spoke fluent French and slipped into the genteel, well-heeled world of art easily.
But during this time she was collecting incapacity benefit, saying she had lymphatic cancer. She also owes an estimated £25,000 in unpaid rent to various landlords.
She moved from flat to flat, first paying a deposit but quickly falling behind and staying as long as she could before she was eventually evicted.
The police say she would create stories and invent civil disputes between her and her landlord both to prolong her stay and give herself an air of plausibility.
CONWOMAN Shahira Marsh, 52, faces jail today after being convicted or defrauding art galleroes and auction houses of £2m worth of goods. Cheques presented at Christie's and Southeby's bounced shortly after she cleared off with the goods. The grifter even had a posh fake name, "Shara Sylvia Marsh De Savigny" implying French aristocracy.
It has been revealed that she has 18 previous convictions and was currently found gulity of 20 offences at Southwark Crown Court.
A woman who tricked some of Europe's top auction houses and boutiques out of £2m worth of paintings, jewellery and antiques is facing jail.
Shahra Marsh, 52, lived the high life for seven years at expensive flats in London's Docklands, Isle of Dogs, Bayswater and Mayfair.
Auctioneers Bonhams, Christie's and Sotheby's and boutiques in Paris were given cheques that later bounced.
Marsh pleaded guilty at Southwark Crown Court to fraud and concealing goods.
This woman amassed a vast quantity of stolen property through complex and protracted criminal methods
Det Con Marek Coghill
Lavish life of £2m fraudster
She admitted 20 offences committed between May 2005 and July 2007.
It can also now be reported that she pleaded guilty to 18 similar counts at previous court appearances.
Marsh will be sentence on Thursday.
The court was told Marsh used aliases including Shara Sylvia Marsh De Savigny - the name implied links to the French aristocracy - as part of her fraud between 2001 and 2008.
She would charm shop assistants and convince them that she was a genuine customer with money to spend.