I am interested in these kinds of stories. Instead of helping people, this rev/conman was helping himself to their material assets!
Here is the Times Online article that was published about the story. --VM44
Web Address: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-2349378,00.html
Clergyman forged wills of elderly parishioners
By Joanna Bale
A CHURCH minister forged the wills of two elderly members of his congregation in an attempt to inherit property worth £280,000.
The Rev Tony Craggs, 43, who ministered at Charlesworth Congregational Church near Glossop, Derbyshire, "took advantage" of its members' admiration and trust, Nottingham Crown Court was told. He targeted sick and frail women and even kept notes on his computer on how to be a conman.
He became involved with his first victim, Margaret Shaw, now 83, when she suffered a stroke and he was summoned to hospital to give her the last rites. She then surprised her doctors by recovering.
Craggs continued to visit her for several weeks and eventually the pensioner said that she wanted to leave some of her estate to his church. He falsely claimed to have legal qualifications and drew up a new will, disguising it as an unrelated document. He also tried to persuade independent witnesses to sign it. The will would have bequeathed him a house worth £140,000 and all of Miss Shaw's furniture.
His second victim, Lilian Ratcliffe, also a member of Craggs's congregation, died in 2004 in her early 80s. Craggs illegally granted himself power of attorney over her estate. However, her relatives became suspicious of Craggs when they spotted him leaving her home with an envelope, Avik Mukherjee, for the prosecution, said.
When police searched Craggs's home they found a document on his home computer with the title "conman". It contained the advice: "A good conman takes a bit of truth and a lot of lies and binds them together to pull the wool over the eyes of the ignorant." They also found practice versions of signatures for both women.
When questioned, Craggs insisted that Miss Ratcliffe had often said that she regarded him as ?the son she never had? and that both women had agreed to the arrangements. Yet the court was told that Miss Ratcliffe had confided in a friend that Craggs had tried to dupe her before.
Craggs had originally faced eleven charges of theft, three of forgery and one of intimidating a witness between February 2003 and December 2004. Yesterday he pleaded guilty to two forgery charges, with the prosecution agreeing to allow the remaining offences to lie on file.
Sentencing Craggs to 240 hours of community punishment, Judge John Burgess said that only his guilty pleas had saved him from imprisonment. Craggs was also ordered to pay £4,000 in costs.
Judge Burgess said: ?A jail sentence might have reflected the public?s disgust at this kind of mean behaviour. You had people in your congregation who trusted you. However, the truth was rather different. You abused their trust and prepared the ground for cheating them. Had you succeeded you would have netted yourself substantial benefits.?
The judge added: "I hope your realise that what you did was deeply hypocritical."
Justin Wigoder, for Craggs, told the court that his client had resigned from the ministry and his departure from the church represented "a big fall from grace". He said that Craggs had a history of depression and had attempted suicide in 1997. "He has been embarrassed and humiliated by his own behaviour."
Craggs, of Blackpool, now runs an eight-bedroom guesthouse for vegetarians and vegans "in need of quiet retreat?"
Two years ago he was involved in a scandal that led to the resignation of a colleague over claims of a gay relationship. The Rev Mike Hall, from Tunstall, Stoke-on-Trent, was subjected to a poison-pen campaign about their friendship.