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Kenneth McKeon

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X-Ray production team X-Ray production team | 19:34 UK time, Monday, 28 September 2009

Here at X-Ray, we think we come across more than our fair share of rogues and charlatans, but some cases shock even us in their audacity.

Over the years, Ken McKeon has stolen from and defrauded dozens of victims out of hundreds of thousands of pounds... but if you've been a victim you may have known him by another name entirely.

DS Alan Owen from South Wales Police spent years on the trail of the consummate con artist, and he told X-Ray presenter Rachel Treadaway-Williams some of the aliases McKeon used to cheat victims out of their hard-earned cash.

DS Owen says: "Ken McKeon, that's his proper name. Ken Thomas, Kevin Jones, Mack Thomas, Ryan Morgan, Gavin Jones. There are eight or nine names which he's used in the furtherance of crimes when he's moved into different areas."

McKeon is currently behind bars, having been convicted of a string of offences, including theft and fraud. But X-Ray first came across the smooth talking hustler three years ago.

Back then he was persuading victims to part with hundreds of pounds in a property scam, calling himself Kenny Thomas and his business Nationwide Associates.

From offices on Cardiff's prestigious Cathedral Road, the company claimed to find guaranteed buyers for homes. Christine Mutton from Cardiff was one of the first victims to fall for the lies.

Supposedly all Christine had to do was pay for a survey and fees - around £800 plus VAT. She wasn't alone. Andrew Williams from Carmarthenshire lost almost a thousand pounds to McKeon when he tried to sell his late mother in law's home.

He said, "We hadn't had any solid offers on the house and we thought it's too good a chance to miss."

Unfortunately, when something seems too good to be true, it usually is - there were no buyers.

Along with around 50 other X-Ray viewers who'd paid Nationwide Associates, Christine and Andrew both lost their money, and Kenny Thomas was nowhere to be found.

Back then no-one was sure if Kenny Thomas and Ken McKeon were the same man. But as we dug into the fraudster's criminal past, we discovered that back in 2003 Reading language teacher Michael O'Brien, had lost tens of thousands of pounds in a Mexican property hustle run by Ken McKeon.

So could Michael confirm that the man we knew as Kenny Thomas, who'd conned X-Ray viewers, was the same man who'd ripped him off?

He seemed publicity shy, but we'd been given a photo by an associate of Kenny Thomas - it certainly showed his penchant for disguise! And when we presented it to Michael, he confirmed our suspicions.

Even dressed as Red Riding Hood's grandma, McKeon couldn't pull the wool over Michael's eyes for a second time.

After we first broadcast a warning about Ken the Con back in 2006, it wasn't long before viewers got in touch to let us know he'd been up to his old tricks again.

The latest victim was Kevin Rideout, whose printing company in Cwmbran was ripped off. He'd been hired to produce promotional material for a company with a familiar sounding name, Nationwide Solutions!

The cost of the brochures was over £6,000, but when it was time to pay, the customer was nowhere to be found.

The customer had said his name was Gavin Jones, but when Kevin saw a familiar face on the X-Ray website, he knew it was the same crook. For the police, it was time to up the ante.

DS Owen told Rachel, "We needed to put Ken McKeon in prison to stop his behaviour. His behaviour was becoming more consistent."

It seemed Ken had got his comeuppance when he tried one con too many last year, stealing a car from Julian Daniel in Bridgend. And of course, a new scam calls for a new identity!

Now, he was Lee Davies - pharmaceutical rep - And he used a fraudulent bankers draft to con Julian into parting with his beloved Mercedes.

After the police picked him up in the stolen car, McKeon ended up in Cardiff Crown Court where he was found guilty of theft and fraud and sentenced to five months behind bars.

The story would have ended there, if Ken had only been able to mend his ways after he was released.

In the incident room at Clydach Police Station, they've become very familiar with Ken McKeon's patter and modus operandi over the years.

According to DS Owen, "He originates from the south Wales area, obviously strong connections in the Swansea area, family in the Newport area. He'd moved on and engaged in relationships with people in those local communities."

When Ken was released from prison last year he headed somewhere he knew he'd find a friendly face - Cwmaman in the Cynon Valley. McKeon had already contacted his next victim, Maria Jones, a single mother of three, over a chat room two years before. He told her his name was Kevin Jones.

Maria told Rachel, "We used to talk through yahoo messenger, and e-mails, and phone calls and texts, and then arranged to meet."

Within weeks Ken had been introduced to Maria's family and friends and became part of the close knit community in Cwmaman, a technique police say he's got down to a fine art.

DS Owen reveals, "People have taken him for whatever reason on the face of it, as somebody who was very sort of eloquent, he engages in relationships, promises to purchase houses, improve their quality of life and unfortunately there's no depth to that."

But the patter seemed convincing. McKeon's latest scam - CDS International - supposedly a debt collection agency was going to be based in a house on Tan Y Bryn Street in Aberdare.

On the day computer supplier Richard Steele delivered equipment, he discovered, bizarrely, that Ken was somehow trying to set up in a house which didn't even belong to him.

By now, McKeon was pushing his luck, trying to set up fake businesses in properties he had no right to be in. It was only a matter of time before the web of lies would unravel.

According to DS Owen, "Within the local community people had given up jobs to go and work for him, thinking that they've given up a secure job for better opportunities, with a job that would never last."

Not content ripping people off with fraudulent businesses, McKeon was about to stoop as low as you can get. Calling himself Kevin Jones, he set up a fake charity - claiming to provide holidays to under privileged children.

Ken had enlisted the help of others to sell crooked raffle tickets - including his girlfriend Maria's teenage son Gareth, who'd just started a new job.

Gareth told Rachel, "I was two months into my job as a care assistant, and as a care assistant you want to be reliable. He made me sell those tickets to them which made out to a few of them that I wasn't trustworthy with money."

Hundreds of people fell for the scam believing they were doing the right thing, even local celebrity Roy Noble thought he was helping a good cause.

Devious and despicable as he was, Ken began losing his grip on Aberdare, people were asking too many questions, and rumours were circulating that he wasn't who he claimed to be. X-Ray was partly responsible.

DS Owen says "It's a strong local community there, where people had concerns they would share information within the local community. Through X-Ray they went onto the website, and identified his true identity of Ken McKeon."

When it was obvious the game was up, Ken scarpered, leaving Maria and her family devastated.

Maria said, "I went out on the Wednesday as I normally do and he said 'I'll see you later' and I came home and, well, he'd just gone. I found out his name the night he left and we went on the internet the following morning and found the BBC X-Ray site and read all about him."

Maria had met McKeon on the internet, and now she used it to warn other women to beware - creating a Facebook site to expose him. She told Rachel this was "To stop him doing it to others, just get his face all round the place so it'll be harder for him to do, to just con people."

By now the net was closing in on McKeon. More people were coming forward to police with information about his crimes, and he'd made the mistake of leaving paperwork at Maria's house, proof of what he'd done.

If the police could just catch up with him, the evidence was indisputable. Eventually they tracked down a car he'd hired in Plymouth.

DS Owen travelled south to make the arrest. He told Rachel: "His response was 'You've got the wrong person'. We were sure that it was Ken McKeon and at that juncture things came to a stop for him."

For Maria and her family, it's a comfort to know Ken McKeon is behind bars, but their ordeal is far from over. She told Rachel, "I hate him. I hope I never see him again because I don't know how I'd react if I did to be honest."

When Ken had his day in court, the full extent of his criminal career was laid bare, along with the fortune it's thought he's amassed over the years.

Police estimate he's made in the region of £1 million over a 10-year period. In total, McKeon admitted a catalogue of offences, including theft, making false representation and obtaining property by deception.

At Merthyr Tydfil Crown Court, this August, McKeon was sentenced to three and a half years imprisonment for his crimes.

He's also banned from being a company director, and is subject to a proceeds of crime order - which means that even after his release he can't benefit from his illegal activity. It's a great result for the team of officers who built the case against him.

DS Owen says "Should Ken McKeon win the lottery, then the first people he'll have to satisfy with that are the compensation orders and the confiscation amounts which will be outstanding against him.

"We will always be there to come back when he's got that car, or that property, or he's in any sort of business, we can go in, identify assets, restrain assets and hopefully reimburse and compensate the people who've been affected."

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