Laylah De Cruz, a model and her mother who helped seize control of a pensioner’s £3 million Kensington home in an “audacious” property fraud are facing jail.
Laylah De Cruz, 31, is said to have asked her mother Dianne Moorcroft, 62, to pretend to be the owner of the west London house, fooling solicitors and estate agents into believing she intended to sell up and move to Dubai.
The pair were lured into the scam by professional fraudsters, jurors heard, and stood to make £100,000 each, despite helping to secure a £1.2m bridging loan on the four-bedroom property.
Ms Moorcroft, who lives in Blackpool, changed her name by deed poll to that of the home owner, 85-year-old Margaret Gwenllian Richards.
She allegedly secured a UK passport and Dubai residency permit in Mrs Richards’s name to convince loans firm Finance and Credit Corporation to transfer £1.2m to a bank account in Dubai, Southwark Crown Court heard.
The deal was flagged as a possible fraud by the Land Registry, but by this time the money had already been withdrawn as cash in Dubai.
Ms Moorcroft and Ms De Cruz, a model and stable-owner who is based permanently in the United Arab Emirates, are standing trial accused of conspiring with others to carry out the fraud in 2014.
Prosecutor Teresa Hay said: “The fraud was as simple as it was audacious. Dianne Moorcroft changed her name by deed poll in summer 2014 solely for the purpose of participating in this fraud.
“She was encouraged and supported in the endeavour by her daughter Laylah De Cruz.”
Messages between the pair, seen by the court, show Ms Moorcroft was initially reluctant to take part in the scam, worrying that changing her name could make it difficult for her to access healthcare.
Ms De Cruz told her: “It’s 30k, you fly here for two days then back. You can change to your other name. It’s only your passport, not all your docs.”
In a later message Ms De Cruz upped her mother’s share of the money, saying: “It’s now 100k for you.”
Ms Hay said the property, which had been vacant as owner Mrs Richards lives in Cambridge, was rented by a man called Mark Armstrong for £6,500 a month in August 2014.
Mr Armstrong, who was also an accomplice to the plot, then went to a solicitor, claiming to represent Mrs Richards and saying she was looking to sell the house and move to Dubai.
Ms Moorcroft then legally changed her name and went with Mr Armstrong to the solicitors’ office to back up his claim that a sale was imminent.
The court heard that in October Ms Moorcroft emailed the solicitor to say she was applying for a bridging loan against the property to release equity without waiting for a buyer to be found.
Ms Hay said: “She was clearly representing that she was free to use the property as she saw fit.”
On October 20 a loan of £1,196,108 was sent to Ms Moorcroft’s bank account in Dubai on her instruction, the court heard, and had already been withdrawn when the Land Registry flagged the deal as a potential fraud.
Ms Hay is said to have been with her daughter in the United Arab Emirates when the loan money was transferred.
The prosecutor said Ms De Cruz and Ms Moorcroft played a “small but hugely significant” role in the alleged scam.
“The efforts of the others could never have even taken shape in the absence of a female participant willing and able to represent herself to the solicitor as the rightful owner of the property,” she said.
“Without a public face of the fraud to go along to the solicitor and say, ‘I am Margaret Gwenllian Richards’, the scheme could never have got off the ground.
“And Ms Moorcroft herself wouldn’t have been involved in the scheme were it not for the intervention and encouragement of her daughter.”
Ms De Cruz and Ms Moorcroft deny conspiracy to commit fraud. Ms Moorcroft denies possession of an identity document with improper intention. The trial is ongoing.