His bedsit was so small you could barely swing a cat in it.
But conman Alistair Stewart – who claimed “I lie as easily as I breathe” – used it as his base to plot a massive con.
The 53-year-old, who claimed benefits, diligently researched the ins and outs of victim Nina Siegenthaler's life and then lured her into a false sense of security so she handed over her one million dollar savings to him.
He told her he had leukaemia, was friends with A-list actors – holding fake conversations with them on the phone – and that his father had died in an avalanche.
Miss Siegenthaler's father actually had died in a skiing accident.
Stewart, of Wynnstay, Oak Hall Park, Burgess Hill, also pretended that his wife and “beloved daughters” had died.
He told her he owned a yacht, private jet and helicopter.
None of it was true.
Instead of investing Miss Siegenthaler's money, as promised, Stewart – who also pretended he was a retired Goldman Sachs billionaire – spent it on luxury jewellery, fast cars, private jets and fancy hotels.
Last night he was not looking forward to Christmas in the £6.5m home he rented in the idyllic retreat in the Turks and Caicos Islands in the Caribbean – where Miss Siegenthaler lived, The Ritz in Portugal – where he also liked to stay – or posh hotel Chewton Glen, a 5* retreat, in Hampshire.
Stewart will be spending Christmas and the New Year in prison because Judge Stephen Kramer, at the Old Bailey, sentenced him to five-and-a-half years in jail after he admitted fraud by false representation.
Miss Siegenthaler said: “He is a man without a moral compass – someone who draws people to him not merely to steal their money but to steal their self worth.
“For him the ultimate objective is not to rob although he'll certainly do that but to control and manipulate.”
Judge Kramer said: “You have caused her immense psychological as well as financial harm.”
Detective Inspector Mick Richards, from Sussex Police's fraud squad, told The Argus: “I am really, really pleased with the sentence.
“But I am not entirely sure that Stewart expected it. He was claiming he had been betrayed – I can't even second guess entirely why.
“But only one person had been betrayed and that was Nina.”
Describing where he lived, DI Richards said: “It was a very small bedsit and very minimalistic in style and décor.
“You could swing a cat round it and give the cat a headache.
“It was about the size of an en-suite bathroom.
“There was a fair degree of planning in Stewart's actions but he did strike lucky. He got to know Nina personally and picked up on any hook.”
He said he would not comment on Miss Siegenthaler's current situation but admitted: “He did take a lot of money”.
What did Stewart spend the $1m on?
- £31,000 watch - which he gave to Miss Siegenthaler
- Stays in the 5* hotel Chewton Glen in Hampshire
- Stays at The Ritz, Portugal
- Stays at Hyde Park Tower Hotel, London
- £54,000 CLK Mercedes
- First class flights around the world
- Rented a £6.5m home - called Hartling House - in the Turks and Caicos Islands
- Shopping sprees in Harrods Private flights into City Airport, London
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