A Romeo conman fleeced a businesswoman out of £55,000 after pretending to be a pal of pop star Barry Manilow, a court heard.

Shaun Verner, 55, was jailed for four- and-a-half years after he posed as a stage lighting boss to impress the victim on an online dating site.

The woman worked for a multi­national accounting firm and owned a four-bedroom house but made the mistake of giving her bank details to Verner, who took control of her account.

He bought tickets for two Manilow concerts and, to impress her, pretended to take a call during the shows, telling her he had been invited backstage by the Copacabana singer, 77.

Instead he went off and hid.

The conman was not in fact friends with singer Barry Manilow - pictured
The conman was not in fact friends with singer Barry Manilow - pictured

Richard Holland, prosecuting, told Durham crown court the victim “hit it off” with Verner, sharing a passion for travel and music.

During a 16-month relationship he lied that he owned a four-bed home and earned £75,000 a year running Stage Light­­ing Solutions, with international clients and “long-standing” ties to veteran singer Manilow.

Verner told her he was due a large negligence payout from the NHS and she lent him £12,000 for “temporary cashflow problems”.

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He also got her to “invest” £28,000 in non-existent property in Portugal, promising “fabulous returns”.

He claimed to have 200 staff and that his son helped to run his firm but his son later told police he barely saw him.

On a four-month business trip abroad, unwittingly paid for by his victim, Verner wore a suit to “meet clients” and used excuses to stop her seeing their property.

Verner later admitted six counts of fraud
Verner later admitted six counts of fraud

She gave up her job to start a new life with him and they got engaged in late 2016, planning a wedding in Portugal before she finally grew suspicious.

Verner, of Thornley, Co Durham, later admitted six counts of fraud. He had previous convictions for dishonesty and deception.

Judge James Adkin described his crimes as a “particularly pernicious type of fraud”.