A SERIAL con artist has been found guilty of taking thousands of pounds from innocent retirees who thought he was preparing their funerals.

Mark Kerbey, 55, of Station Road, Westcliff, left a couple £3,000 out of pocket after they paid him to organise their funerals, but the plans never materialised.

Kerbey was charged with three counts of fraud by misrepresentation and was on trial at Basildon Crown Court.

After three hours and 47 minutes, a jury of ten women and two men found him guilty of one count of fraud, but cleared him of the other two counts which related to similar incidents.

The court heard how on October 18, 2014, Kerbey took payment of £3,000 from Michael Aslett who wanted to put plans in place for him and his wife.

He transferred the money but when he contacted Mayer Funeral Homes, which was previously run by Kerbey, to confirm receipt of the money he was told there was no record of the money arriving and that Mark Kerbey did not work for them.

The court heard that Kerbey’s company was forced into liquidation when he was sent to prison for unrelated fraud offences in October 2014.

Kerbey, who changed his name from Richard Sage in 2011, was handed a four-and-a-half year prison sentence for six unconnected counts of fraud by misrepresentation.

He was also convicted of fraud in November 2012.

Kerbey claimed he was unable to complete the funerals his company had taken payment for but that there were staff that could have done so.

A company called Penrose Funeral Home took over the business and occupied the same premises in Bridgewater Drive, Westcliff.

Sentencing was postponed due to Kerbey’s requirement to receive medical treatment for a serious injury. The court heard Kerbey, whose right arm has been in a sling throughout the trial, had suffered a serious crush injury to his right hand and required antibiotic treatment to prevent it from becoming infected. There is also a possibility it may need amputation if the antibiotics are unsuccessful.

Recorder Philip Brook-Smith QC said: “It is appropriate to allow his treatment to continue in the short term.

“He knows he must come back to this court on June 25 for the offence he has been found guilty of.”