ELENA Escuverra was anything but happy when she joined the dating website Match.com in early 2011.
She hated her job and was single and alone at 39, looking for love in an image-obsessed Marbella.
So when the tall brunette began exchanging messages with a dashing ‘British lawyer’ named George, her heart naturally fluttered.
An attorney for the Saudi Royal family, George, who was based in London, seemed to know all the right people and had even dated the daughter of former prime minister Adolfo Suarez.
Claiming to have property in Zagaleta, Spain’s most exclusive enclave, and other investments in Marbella, she understandably believed he could be her knight in shining armour.
However the handsome ‘George’ was in fact Mark Acklom, one of Britain’s most prolific fraudsters and now a famous face on Crimestoppers top ten Most Wanted fugitives list.
Sought in various countries, Acklom – who also uses the names Mark Ros, Ros Marc Rodriguez, Mark Desmond, Zack Moss among others – has spent ten years behind bars in Britain and Spain and defrauded dozens, if not hundreds, of people around the world.
One of these, British divorcee Carolyn Woods, 55, lost nearly one million euros to the conman, while various others have since come forward.
Indeed, it was only during a recent manhunt for Acklom – who the Olive Press traced to Murcia last month – that the ‘scary and seedy’ episode in Elena’s life came back to haunt her.
The attractive estate agent, based in Marbella, revealed this week that she had been pursued relentlessly by Acklom, who claimed to have numerous business interests on the Costa del Sol.
“We were soon having a love affair via phone, email and text,” she recalled.
“He told me he had a building plot in Zagaleta and that we could start a life there when he sold all of his investments in Spain.
“He said he had owned a massive ice cream business in Alicante, which had failed and almost left him bankrupt, but he was now making a recovery.
“He insisted that he lived in Mayfair and had many other business interests in the UK.”
She continued: “He was emailing me four or five times a day and ringing me at least three times, he became obsessed,” Elena said. “Somehow I knew to be wary, but he was very convincing and forward.”
One thing led to another and he had soon persuaded her to fly over to meet him in London.
Paying for a ticket on British Airways to London Gatwick, in March 2011, he arranged to meet her at one of the airport hotels.
“I was excited to actually meet him, but as soon as we met he was so nervous,” she continued. “He was shaking and started to cry within minutes. It was not the image of the confident and sure man I had been speaking to… it was very strange, he seemed more like a scared child.”
When Acklom calmed down, he confessed that there was something he had to tell her.
“He said he had been working undercover for MI6 in British intelligence, infiltrating the IRA.
“He even pulled his socks down and showed me scars that he said he received from being tortured with electricity.”
It wouldn’t be the first time Acklom would spin the MI6 line. Just a year later he would give the same story to the then 41-year-old divorcee Carolyn Woods, who he famously scammed out of her €990,000 life savings.
“He said that’s why he had two passports and he admitted he had given me a fake name of George, and that his real name was Mark.
“He begged me to move to England, he said he could give me a job as his PA for €12,000 a month and that I could be driven in a continental Bentley and live in the house in Mayfair or Sandbanks. He showed me photos of both on emails.”
As she got to know him better, he told her he despised his mother, and blamed her for the problems of his youth.
“He told me that his mother sent him away to a boarding school and he hated it,” she said, “He then started working at 16 and bought a house by lying about his age, but his mother found out and he was given a choice, go to jail or attend a strict religious school, he chose the latter, which he said is where he got his law degree.
“He told me so many times that he never wanted to see his mother again and that he hated her, but he never once mentioned his father.
“I think he has maternal issues and issues with female relationships
“He told me that he was obsessed with sex and always wanted me to wear La Perla lingerie, he once said to me ‘once you wear La Perla you will never want to wear anything else’.”
She continued: “Clearly what he needed was to be loved like a child, not like a man. I think he is trying to make up for something he missed in his childhood.”
When Elena suggested Mark visited Spain, he declined, saying he did not have a good relationship with the then prime minister Jose Zapatero, a socialist, whose election campaign he had been openly against.
Acklom failed to mention that his reluctance might have had something to do with the €250,000 property scam he was then masterminding in Murcia, tricking two brothers into paying him for buildings he didn’t own. A scam for which he would later spend three years in prison.
Elena, whose uncle worked in anti-terrorism and had worked in the security detail of two prime ministers, started to realise something was up.
“My uncle knew the family of former leader Adolfo Suarez, whose daughter Mark claimed to have dated, and he told me one had died of cancer and one was happily married.
“When I put it to Mark, he shrugged it off nervously and failed to give me an answer.
“My intuition said something was not right.”
While she saw him over a couple of days in London, she refused to go to bed with him, believing he was spinning a web of lies.
But that was not the end of the relationship. When she returned to Spain, Elena says Acklom hounded her with texts and calls, promising her the earth and talking about numerous projects on the Costa del Sol.
The deceit would have come easily to Acklom, who started his fraudster ways as a teenager, stealing his mother’s mink coat to sell for a quick buck.
At 16, he spent £11,000 on his father’s stolen American Express card before posing as a stockbroker in a £1million fraud — wearing handmade suits, buying a £500,000 mansion, and taking girlfriends to the Canary Islands on a private jet.
But Elena wasn’t buying it.
She contacted one of Marbella’s top law firms, who Acklom told her he regularly hired.
The firm, who we are not naming for legal reasons, agreed to see Elena and in a meeting at the swish Golden Mile office, incredibly backed up many of Acklom’s claims.
“The lawyer confirmed that Acklom was a client and that he was worth €7 billion and that he even had his own private jet,” she explained. “He confirmed all the things that Mark had been telling me – he even said he had flown a few women to London and paid for their expensive hotels, chauffeurs and meals.”
The lawyer claimed that the actual reason Acklom couldn’t visit Spain was because he had not paid in full for a rental car in Malaga and failed to show up in court. It led to a warrant for his arrest, which they were dealing with.
“However, luckily he eventually warned me to stay away from him, he said Acklom is a very possessive man and very jealous.
“It’s strange when I think about it now because it’s hard to believe such a highly respected law firm could be so easily fooled like me.”
Either way, Elena took the lawyer’s advice and began responding less and less to Acklom.
“At one point he was hounding me so much I feared for my life, I did not know what this man was capable of and he knew where I lived.
Luckily for Elena he eventually stopped contacting her around August, just, coincidentally as he moved onto his next victim Woods.
“I realise I was lucky. I was in a bad period of my life, and maybe he thought that I was vulnerable and easier to manipulate.”
Elena believes that no matter where he is now, almost certainly in Spain still, he will carry on his ‘game’ with women because it’s like an addiction for him. “I know that he will do this until the day he dies, it’s like a sick game to him.”
Elena, who remains single, said she hasn’t been put off men by Acklom.
“If anything I trust my gut more because I was right about him, I just hope no one else falls for it.” And she joked: “I just wish now I had asked him to dance for me since he also claimed he had been trained in classical ballet from the age of three. Now that would have been funny.”
Elena’s name and details have been changed to protect her identity