HE was the Glasgow teenager who became one of the most prolific scammers and fraudsters ever seen in Britain.

During a five-year crime blitz Elliot Castro from Battlefield in the Southside of the city spent more than £1 million travelling the world first class and living in five-star hotels using credit cards he had stolen or obtained by deception.

He would extract personal information over the phone, use it to bypass the security of a credit card company and arrange for a new card to be sent to his address.

He also pretended to be a receptionist at a number of hotels to con guests out of their credit card details by claiming there was a problem with their payment.

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Born in Aberdeen to a Chilean oil worker father and a Scottish mother, he had been taken as a child to live in his dad’s native land, before returning to live in Glasgow.

On the flight there from London Heathrow the youngster witnessed luxury for the first time in first class – from the cramped seats of economy.

His first ever scam came as a young teenager.

Castro had acquired a pile of blank railway tickets and learned how to print destinations on them which he would visit free of charge.

On one occasion he picked up a credit card he had found on a train and used it to buy a ticket and was promptly arrested when he got off the carriage. But the young offender was let off with a warning.

When he left school at the age of 16, he started work in a call centre in Glasgow for a mobile phone company.

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He used the personal details of one of his customers to obtain an American Express card sent to his home.

When it arrived a few days later he bought a club class return ticket to London and booked a room at the Park Lane Hilton on the same card.

He then went on a shopping spree that included a £700 Louis Vuitton bag and a £300 belt.

That night he spent nearly £1000 on champagne in the bar, using the stolen card, after meeting a group of bankers.

On his first trip to New York, he posed as a businessman.

In three days, he squandered £15,000 shopping and the same again on cocktails as a limousine waited on permanent standby.

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He even flew to Los Angeles and checked into a $1000-a-night suite at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel because he had seen it in the film Pretty Woman and wanted to emulate Richard Gere’s character.

In Canada on another spree, he posed as a secret agent. He paid £4000 to fly there first class, visited Niagara Falls, toured Toronto’s champagne bars in his Armani suit and finished off with an afternoon of shopping.

He also conned his way into Bono’s company at the Clarence Hotel in Dublin posing as a hotel consultant.

The U2 singer was sitting with a group of friends and Castro bought them rounds of drinks using a fraudulently obtained American Express card.

By the time the hotel realised they had been scammed the teenager was well away from the scene of the crime.

He used the same disguise in the Bahamas.

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He befriended a Texas oilman and his wife, who took him cruising on their luxury yacht, saying they’d never met a hotel consultant before.

In one of his slickest tricks, Elliot impersonated a Royal Navy lieutenant.

He’d call a hotel and ask to speak to a guest called Mr Smith. Most hotels had one.

When he was put through, Elliot would pretend he was the receptionist, saying there was a problem with the guest’s credit card and could he answer a few security questions.

Usually, the guest would agree, and Elliot would have enough information to order a replacement card.

This time, when the plastic arrived, he saw the name was Lieutenant Smith with a credit limit of £50,000. Elliot headed to Gieves and Hawkes, the Savile Row tailors who dress the military, to order a uniform.

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Wearing the outfit, the next day he went to Watches of Switzerland on Bond Street to buy a £3000 Rolex.

Another time he put on an American accent to blow £42,000 in four days in Edinburgh with his favourite card – an American Express under the name Chad.

He bought a Rolex Oyster President costing £12,110 from jewellers Hamilton and Inches. He got through £11,000 in one morning at Harvey Nichols and bid £7000 in cash for an antique table at Sotheby’s.

By the time he was 21, Castro had served prison terms for fraud in Britain, Ireland and Toronto in Canada.

One con where he posed as a doctor on a train however backfired spectacularly.

A female passenger suffered a panic attack, and a call went out for assistance, he kept up his cover by going with her to hospital, even examining her with a stethoscope. It was one of the few times he was caught.

He later received four months at Carlisle Magistrates Court for fraud, assault and impersonating a doctor.

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Castro’s international spending spree came to a dramatic end on November 5, 2004.

The 22-year-old was arrested in Harvey Nichols in Edinburgh after buying £2000 in gift vouchers on a stolen American Express card and remanded in custody.

The following year at Isleworth Crown Court in Middlesex, Castro admitted fraud offences amounting to £73,447.

They included the purchase of a British Airways first class ticket to New York worth more than £8000 and a Qantas return to Sydney worth £6500.

He also asked for 431 similar offences to be taken into account.

The court was told that the only thing of value recovered by police was a £12,110 Rolex watch.

Castro was sentenced to two years but was released after completing 12 months.

Judge Andrew McDowall said at the time: “This is a staggering litany of crime that hints at much more.

“But if there should be a next time you cannot expect to be treated so leniently again.”

While Detective Constable Ralph Eastgate of the Metropolitan Police, who helped bring Castro to justice, added: “He was very, very good at what he did.

“If you look at the amount of activity, you’d think this was the work of a well organised gang.”

Castro’s life was a mirror image of the plot of Leonardo DiCaprio’s hit film Catch Me If You Can, based on the life of conman Frank Abagnale.

Abagnale served five years of a 12-year jail term for fraud before the FBI arranged his release so he could help catch other swindlers.

Following his own release Castro was approached by several companies to help them with their fraud prevention strategies.

He has since become a highly respected consultant to bodies like Barclays, the Metropolitan Police and the FBI.

Castro continues to speak about his experiences to people in the finance industry and also works as a nightclub DJ.

Last month he addressed an audience at a conference on fraud in London.

In 2007 Castro brought out his own book called Other People’s Money: The Rise and Fall of Britain’s Most Audacious Fraudster, which told the story of his five-year crime spree, freeloading lifestyle and how he got away with it.

Castro said at the time: “I’m never going to try to pretend what I did was right.

“I was a crook. But I only succeeded for so long because the card companies never stopped me.

“They were inefficient or they just didn’t care – or they preferred to write off their losses rather than be embarrassed by any investigations.”



In another interview to promote his book Castro explained how the life of a super fraudster begins. He said: “You start scamming small, maybe £50 or something, then it just escalates.

“Before you know it, you’re in a nightclub paying £700 for a bottle of champagne on someone else’s credit card.

“There’s no doubt crime is very profitable.

“I could make thousands of pounds in an hour. That sort of dough is enticing for anyone.”

Castro has also vowed in the past not to go back to his old ways.

He added: “If people really want to live a life where they are lonely all the time and they have to lie to everyone they know then that’s up to them.

“Despite the first class flights and the nice hotels, it’s a miserable sort of existence.

“I’ve also realised that what I was doing was causing people a lot of hurt and distress.

“Anyone who thinks credit card fraud is a victimless crime is a fool. I know that now.”