The strange make-believe world of a 'devious, narcissistic' serial fraudster who led a double life
In the murky, Walter Mitty world of serial con artists – and many believe the yarns they spin – there are fraudsters with fantastic covers and then there is Jody Oliver.
Quite simply, Oliver – whose make-believe existence as a cruise ship boss earned him the title Captain Hogwash – is among the most memorable criminal cheats I’ve encountered during half-a-century in journalism. He is a Billy Liar with bad intentions.
For a crime writer, he’s also the gift that keeps on giving. Whether posing as good old Captain Hogwash, a solicitor or barrister, he has, when given the choice between right and wrong, consistently chosen the latter path.
Earlier this year, I was taken aback by a report in the Shropshire Star of the former special constable’s latest court appearance. Already serving six years for selling fake holidays while posing as a bogus cruise captain, the rogue has received a prison term of the same duration for ripping off his father-in-law, an 86-year-old woman and Worcester’s Cat Protection League shop.
Merthyr Tydfil Crown Court was given a detailed account of the complex, fictional existence that Oliver has created – and the depths to which he will sink.
Incredibly, he targeted the Cats Protection League while working there as part of a court community order. After suspicions were raised over his activities at a Volvo dealership, Oliver blamed it on his identical twin brother – and produced a photograph as proof.
Oliver and I are former sparring partners – and this paper’s court report does not do justice to a story which has all the makings of a Hollywood blockbuster.
Set in Oliver’s mid Wales stomping ground, its plot could rival that of 2002 Hollywood smash “Catch Me If You Can”, starring Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio: the saga of one detective’s relentless search for a fraudster.
Judge Jeremy Jenkins described Oliver as “devious and thoroughly dishonest”. That mirrors my character assessment.
The defendant’s claims of now seeing the light and his wish to help others were the “narcissistic outpourings of a fraudster”, added the judge. Again, I agree. Away from his tangled relationships, Oliver was conducting an intense love affair with himself.
I remain staggered by the layers of faux careers and claims that hid the conniving criminal’s intentions. When approaching an assignment, a journalist has to discover the answer to six key questions: Who, what, when, where, how and why?
In Oliver’s case, the gaps were filled with depressing ease. Who and what is Jody Oliver? He’s a terminal/serial fraudster. When is he a serial fraudster? Pretty much round-the-clock, 24/7. Where is he a serial fraudster? Wherever the opportunity presents itself, no qualms, no conscience. How is he a serial fraudster? In a number of ways, but predominantly by posing as men with authority.
I discovered Oliver led an elaborate and exhausting double life which near defied belief.
To his wife Laura and their three children, he was a high-flying businessman whose job required frequent trips abroad.
He boasted of interests in a number of companies, including a luxury fleet car operation, gaming machine business and funeral parlour.
Yet Companies House showed directorships of only two firms – both dissolved.
To his fiancé Rhys – a man he met on a dating site – Oliver was a dashing, dapper cruise ship captain, something he doubtless yearned to be. Unfortunately, in reality – a place Oliver was reluctantly forced to occasionally visit – he suffered from crippling sea sickness.