We contacted Lesley after her story appeared in the Norwich News. She agreed to chat to us and have her photo’s taken. We then managed to place her real life story into Love It Magazine. Read Lesley’s full story below:

THE MUM WHO LET HER TEENAGE SON’S PAL MOVE IN, EVEN MAKING HIM GODFATHER TO BABY, ONLY TO DISCOVER HE WAS A 33 YEAR OLD FRAUDSTER AND CON MAN

As Thomassino took his place at the front of the church, proudly cradling his new goddaughter – my granddaughter Syeira – I couldn’t help feeling a sense of pride.

Since we’d given him a roof over his head two months earlier, Thomassino had really become part of the family. I suppose, in a way, it felt like I’d gained another son.

It all started last December when my son Connor, now 18, told me that his mate Thomassino had split up with his girlfriend.

‘He’s got nowhere to go, Mum,’ Connor said.

With three of my five children – Connor, 17, Scott, 16, and Luke, nine – at home it wasn’t like we had a lot of room, but I’d met Thomassino a few times over the year that the boys had been friends and he seemed like a nice lad. He was the same age as Connor and I hated the thought of him out on the streets.

‘What do you think?’ I asked my hubby, Norman. ‘Could we put him up for a bit?’

‘Well, we’ve got the spare room,’ he said.

So a few days later Thomassino moved in.

‘I’m so grateful to you,’ he said. ‘I’ll pay my way.’

But although he offered us £50 a week I wouldn’t accept. After all, he was just a kid who’d had a tough time. I hoped somebody would do the same for one of my kids.

He’d not had an easy life. He told me his parents were Italian and he’d moved around a lot as a child.

I hoped that living with us would be a new start for him, help him get himself sorted out. So when he told me again that he’d not been paid from work I was disappointed for him.

‘Companies shouldn’t be allowed to treat people like that,’ I tutted to Norman as I cleared away the dinner plates. ‘When all’s said and done, he’s still a kid.’

After work the boys would take out their bikes for a rise and some weekends they’d do camping with the other kids on the estate. During the week he’d eat his favourite fish fingers and chips I cooked him at the table with the other kids.

When Christmas came I made sure he had a pile of presents under the tree the same as Connor. He was so excited when he saw my carefully wrapped gifts, a t-shirt, computer game and CD, typical teenage stuff.

Despite his money worries, Thomassino stayed upbeat, firing off job applications and even finding time to re-tile our bathroom and kitchen.

‘You’ve done a great job, love,’ I said, admiring his handiwork.

‘It’s the least I can do after all you’ve done for me,’ he smiled bashfully.

But in truth, he was an easy house guest. He kept his room tidy, was polite and helped around the house. He also got on well with my sons and my daughter Stephanie, 23, who lived the other side of town with her son Logan, three, and new baby daughter, Syeira, nine months.

So when my daughter Stephanie, 23, needed a Godfather for Syeira, he was the obvious choice. She came over every day with the kids and like my other kids Thomassino would spend hours playing in the garden with Logan or helping to feed Syeira.

He seemed thrilled to be asked, too. ‘It would be an honour, ‘ he smiled.

The day before the christening I spent hours in the kitchen making sausage rolls and baking cakes for the do back at ours after the church. Thomassino pitched in, wrapping plates of sandwiches in clingfilm and doing the washing up.

The next morning, I zipped up my cream green and gold dress then opened my jewellery box. Very carefully, I took out my favourite necklace and did up the clasp.

Sparkling with clusters of twinkling diamonds, sapphires and pearls, the 22ct gold necklace was had been commissioned by my father as a gift for my mother to celebrate her 18th birthday over 80 years earlier and Mum had given it to me after Stephanie was born.

Now they’d both passed away it was my most treasured possession. We’d had it valued at £15,000 but to me it was priceless – which is why I only wore it on special occasions like my wedding day and my children’s christenings.

Admiring it in the mirror one final time, I fluffed up my hair, picked up my jacket and started downstairs.

‘C’mon gang, we’re going to be late!’ I called.

Standing at the altar in his smart work suit Thomassino looked so happy. I felt a twinge of pride. We’d helped him through a difficult time. I hoped if things had been different someone would do the same for my kids.

It was a lovely day. Everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves.

That evening as I put my necklace back in the box I thought how nice it was that it would one day belong to Stephanie, and in time, baby Syeira, too. It was part of our family history.

Ten days later, Thomassino said he had to go away on a training course in London for a new job he’d been offered.

I was delighted things were going right for him and even bought him some toiletries for his wash bag. It was what I would have done for my own kids.

‘To help you keep your cool!’ I joked as I handed him the can of deodorant.

Two days passed and on the evening he was due back I texted him to ask if he wanted a dinner left out before I left for work. But he replied saying he was going to visit friends in Manchester.

‘C u soon,’ he added.

But two more days passed and although the texts kept coming, there was no sign of Thomassino. He first texted to say he’d met up with an old flame and would be back in a day or two. Then he texted again to say he was spending some time with a mate. It was like he was making excuses not to come home.

I was worried. So after a week I got out the phone book and rang the company Thomassino said he was training with. Only –

‘I’m sorry, the receptionist said. ‘We’ve had no dealings with anyone of that name.’

As I hung up, I started to feel uneasy. So I called his old job, asked whether a Thomassino Meldoni had worked for them before they’d gone into liquidation but:

‘We’re still trading,’ they said, before confirming that yes, Thomassino had been on their payroll, had been paid on time every month and that as far as they were aware,was currently on bail.

‘On bail? No, we must be talking about different people,’ I said.

But as I hung up, a queasy feeling came over me. Was Thomassino really who he said he was?

As I ran upstairs to my bedroom, even before I opened my jewellery box I knew what I’d find. And I was right.

‘It’s gone!’ I shouted downstairs. ‘He’s taken my necklace.’

Norman ran upstairs. Together, we checked Thomassino’s room. He hadn’t brought a lot of belongings with him but there, sticking out from under the bed was his passport.

And as we opened it, another shock. Thomas wasn’t the same age as Connor – he was 33.

I felt sick. A grown man befriending teenagers, it wasn’t right… I phoned the police.

As I started to spell out Thomassino’s name, the police officer stopped me. They knew who I was talking about alright. Turns out Meldoni really had been on bail for theft and fraud when he moved in with us.

And there was another shock to come…

Thomassino wasn’t even Italian. He was from Bury St Edmunds, the town up the road and had changed his name by deed poll from Thomas Saunders to the exotic sounding Thomassino Meldoni!

I broke down. I felt so betrayed.

‘I feel such a fool,’ I wept.

‘We were all taken in, Mum,’ Stephanie said. ‘Look at me. I asked him to be Syeira’s goodfather.’

Connor felt terrible too. He struggled to take in that his mate had really been an older man and felt guilty that he’d been the one to bring him into our home.

‘It’s not your fault, darling,’ I told him. ‘You thought you were doing a friend a favour…we all did.’

As we reeled in shock, Norman noticed Thomassino’s stepdad’s phone number written in his passport. He called him.

‘What’s he done this time?’ he asked wearily.

Gradually, we learnt Thomassino – or Thomas as he knew him – had been in trouble with the police from the age of 15.

‘I’m so sorry he’s done this to you. I’ll do anything to help,’ he added.

While the Police followed up some contacts he gave them, they advised me to keep texting Thomassino and try to entice him back to the house so they could swoop and arrest him. But although Thomassino did occasionally reply to my messages with more excuses, we never saw him again.

Everything began to take its toll. I was signed off my nursing job with stress.

Then a month later, we were told that Meldoni had been found in Manchester.

‘Thank God,’ I said when they called me. ‘So you’ve found my necklace?’

But Thomassino had already sold it for a paltry £500 – just a fraction of its real worth. Not that the money really mattered. I was devastated that thanks to him my daughter and granddaughter had been robbed of their inheritance.

‘There might still be a way to get it back,’ Norman soothed as I cried myself to sleep that night.

But despite visiting all the jewellers in Norwich, trawling all the auction houses and jewellers in Manchester and contacting Christy’s and Bonham’s worldwide, no one had laid eyes on our family jewels.

‘It’s gone forever!’ I wailed.

And there was worse to come – the insurance company wouldn’t pay out because I’d invited Thomassino into my home. They said they should be informed every time I had a guest to stay in the house. It was ridiculous. With the kids, there were always people staying over.

Meanwhile, our witness care office told us that Meldoni had appeared at Norwich Magistrate’s court but pleaded not guilty.

‘He’s a bloody liar!’ Norman roared.

His case was referred to Norwich Crown Court. But two weeks before, he changed plea to guilty and his sentencing date was set for the first week in June .

‘He’ll get his comeuppance,’ Norman promised.

So when Thomassino appeared at Norwich Crown Court we all sat in the public gallery waiting to hear his fate.

As well as stealing the necklace, he pleaded guilty to stealing £1,000 from a safe at a local pub where he’d worked the Spring before he’d moved in with us, and stealing a camera, Ipod and other electrical items from a girlfriend’s friend. He also pleaded guilty to fraud after he sold the stolen camera, claiming it was his.

Found guilty, the judge sentenced Melidoni to nine months for the theft of my necklace and a further eight months for the other thefts and fraud, to run concurrently and suspended for 18 months. During this supervision period he was also required to carry out 300 hours’ unpaid work.

‘So that’s it, is it?’ Norman fumed. ‘After everything he’s put us through, he gets let off with rapped knuckles?’

I felt sick that Melidoni had avoided prison too. He hadn’t even said for sorry to us for what he’d done. And after I’d done his washing and cooked his dinners for him, too…

Suddenly, it all got too much. I jumped to my feet.

‘How could you do it?’ I screamed, waving a photo of his ‘Goddaughter’ and asking how he could steal from them?

But still there was no apology. He had the decency to look ashamed but knowing his background that could have just been another of his acts.

Now, weeks on, we’re trying to put it all behind us and move on but it’s impossible. We’ve lost everything. I don’t even feel comfortable on my own home anymore. It feels soiled thanks to Thomassino’s lies. Poor little Syeira now has a convicted criminal as a Godfather too – hardly the perfect role model.
But at least the police found the necklace.

I’ve asked myself if I was somehow to blame for what happened but my only crime was to want to support another young person and treat him like one of my own. Unfortunately that made me easy pickings for a con man.

Still, it’s made me wary. I won’t be as trusting again. And I’d warn other mums to be careful who their kids bring home – or they might just find themselves dishing up dinner for a con man, like I did.

ENDS
We contacted Lesley after her story appeared in the Norwich News. She agreed to chat to us and have her photo’s taken. We then managed to place her real life story into Love It Magazine. Read Lesley’s full story below:

THE MUM WHO LET HER TEENAGE SON’S PAL MOVE IN, EVEN MAKING HIM GODFATHER TO BABY, ONLY TO DISCOVER HE WAS A 33 YEAR OLD FRAUDSTER AND CON MAN

As Thomassino took his place at the front of the church, proudly cradling his new goddaughter – my granddaughter Syeira – I couldn’t help feeling a sense of pride.

Since we’d given him a roof over his head two months earlier, Thomassino had really become part of the family. I suppose, in a way, it felt like I’d gained another son.

It all started last December when my son Connor, now 18, told me that his mate Thomassino had split up with his girlfriend.

‘He’s got nowhere to go, Mum,’ Connor said.

With three of my five children – Connor, 17, Scott, 16, and Luke, nine – at home it wasn’t like we had a lot of room, but I’d met Thomassino a few times over the year that the boys had been friends and he seemed like a nice lad. He was the same age as Connor and I hated the thought of him out on the streets.

‘What do you think?’ I asked my hubby, Norman. ‘Could we put him up for a bit?’

‘Well, we’ve got the spare room,’ he said.

So a few days later Thomassino moved in.

‘I’m so grateful to you,’ he said. ‘I’ll pay my way.’

But although he offered us £50 a week I wouldn’t accept. After all, he was just a kid who’d had a tough time. I hoped somebody would do the same for one of my kids.

He’d not had an easy life. He told me his parents were Italian and he’d moved around a lot as a child.

I hoped that living with us would be a new start for him, help him get himself sorted out. So when he told me again that he’d not been paid from work I was disappointed for him.

‘Companies shouldn’t be allowed to treat people like that,’ I tutted to Norman as I cleared away the dinner plates. ‘When all’s said and done, he’s still a kid.’

After work the boys would take out their bikes for a rise and some weekends they’d do camping with the other kids on the estate. During the week he’d eat his favourite fish fingers and chips I cooked him at the table with the other kids.

When Christmas came I made sure he had a pile of presents under the tree the same as Connor. He was so excited when he saw my carefully wrapped gifts, a t-shirt, computer game and CD, typical teenage stuff.

Despite his money worries, Thomassino stayed upbeat, firing off job applications and even finding time to re-tile our bathroom and kitchen.

‘You’ve done a great job, love,’ I said, admiring his handiwork.

‘It’s the least I can do after all you’ve done for me,’ he smiled bashfully.

But in truth, he was an easy house guest. He kept his room tidy, was polite and helped around the house. He also got on well with my sons and my daughter Stephanie, 23, who lived the other side of town with her son Logan, three, and new baby daughter, Syeira, nine months.

So when my daughter Stephanie, 23, needed a Godfather for Syeira, he was the obvious choice. She came over every day with the kids and like my other kids Thomassino would spend hours playing in the garden with Logan or helping to feed Syeira.

He seemed thrilled to be asked, too. ‘It would be an honour, ‘ he smiled.

The day before the christening I spent hours in the kitchen making sausage rolls and baking cakes for the do back at ours after the church. Thomassino pitched in, wrapping plates of sandwiches in clingfilm and doing the washing up.

The next morning, I zipped up my cream green and gold dress then opened my jewellery box. Very carefully, I took out my favourite necklace and did up the clasp.

Sparkling with clusters of twinkling diamonds, sapphires and pearls, the 22ct gold necklace was had been commissioned by my father as a gift for my mother to celebrate her 18th birthday over 80 years earlier and Mum had given it to me after Stephanie was born.

Now they’d both passed away it was my most treasured possession. We’d had it valued at £15,000 but to me it was priceless – which is why I only wore it on special occasions like my wedding day and my children’s christenings.

Admiring it in the mirror one final time, I fluffed up my hair, picked up my jacket and started downstairs.

‘C’mon gang, we’re going to be late!’ I called.

Standing at the altar in his smart work suit Thomassino looked so happy. I felt a twinge of pride. We’d helped him through a difficult time. I hoped if things had been different someone would do the same for my kids.

It was a lovely day. Everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves.

That evening as I put my necklace back in the box I thought how nice it was that it would one day belong to Stephanie, and in time, baby Syeira, too. It was part of our family history.

Ten days later, Thomassino said he had to go away on a training course in London for a new job he’d been offered.

I was delighted things were going right for him and even bought him some toiletries for his wash bag. It was what I would have done for my own kids.

‘To help you keep your cool!’ I joked as I handed him the can of deodorant.

Two days passed and on the evening he was due back I texted him to ask if he wanted a dinner left out before I left for work. But he replied saying he was going to visit friends in Manchester.

‘C u soon,’ he added.

But two more days passed and although the texts kept coming, there was no sign of Thomassino. He first texted to say he’d met up with an old flame and would be back in a day or two. Then he texted again to say he was spending some time with a mate. It was like he was making excuses not to come home.

I was worried. So after a week I got out the phone book and rang the company Thomassino said he was training with. Only –

‘I’m sorry, the receptionist said. ‘We’ve had no dealings with anyone of that name.’

As I hung up, I started to feel uneasy. So I called his old job, asked whether a Thomassino Meldoni had worked for them before they’d gone into liquidation but:

‘We’re still trading,’ they said, before confirming that yes, Thomassino had been on their payroll, had been paid on time every month and that as far as they were aware,was currently on bail.

‘On bail? No, we must be talking about different people,’ I said.

But as I hung up, a queasy feeling came over me. Was Thomassino really who he said he was?

As I ran upstairs to my bedroom, even before I opened my jewellery box I knew what I’d find. And I was right.

‘It’s gone!’ I shouted downstairs. ‘He’s taken my necklace.’

Norman ran upstairs. Together, we checked Thomassino’s room. He hadn’t brought a lot of belongings with him but there, sticking out from under the bed was his passport.

And as we opened it, another shock. Thomas wasn’t the same age as Connor – he was 33.

I felt sick. A grown man befriending teenagers, it wasn’t right… I phoned the police.

As I started to spell out Thomassino’s name, the police officer stopped me. They knew who I was talking about alright. Turns out Meldoni really had been on bail for theft and fraud when he moved in with us.

And there was another shock to come…

Thomassino wasn’t even Italian. He was from Bury St Edmunds, the town up the road and had changed his name by deed poll from Thomas Saunders to the exotic sounding Thomassino Meldoni!

I broke down. I felt so betrayed.

‘I feel such a fool,’ I wept.

‘We were all taken in, Mum,’ Stephanie said. ‘Look at me. I asked him to be Syeira’s goodfather.’

Connor felt terrible too. He struggled to take in that his mate had really been an older man and felt guilty that he’d been the one to bring him into our home.

‘It’s not your fault, darling,’ I told him. ‘You thought you were doing a friend a favour…we all did.’

As we reeled in shock, Norman noticed Thomassino’s stepdad’s phone number written in his passport. He called him.

‘What’s he done this time?’ he asked wearily.

Gradually, we learnt Thomassino – or Thomas as he knew him – had been in trouble with the police from the age of 15.

‘I’m so sorry he’s done this to you. I’ll do anything to help,’ he added.

While the Police followed up some contacts he gave them, they advised me to keep texting Thomassino and try to entice him back to the house so they could swoop and arrest him. But although Thomassino did occasionally reply to my messages with more excuses, we never saw him again.

Everything began to take its toll. I was signed off my nursing job with stress.

Then a month later, we were told that Meldoni had been found in Manchester.

‘Thank God,’ I said when they called me. ‘So you’ve found my necklace?’

But Thomassino had already sold it for a paltry £500 – just a fraction of its real worth. Not that the money really mattered. I was devastated that thanks to him my daughter and granddaughter had been robbed of their inheritance.

‘There might still be a way to get it back,’ Norman soothed as I cried myself to sleep that night.

But despite visiting all the jewellers in Norwich, trawling all the auction houses and jewellers in Manchester and contacting Christy’s and Bonham’s worldwide, no one had laid eyes on our family jewels.

‘It’s gone forever!’ I wailed.

And there was worse to come – the insurance company wouldn’t pay out because I’d invited Thomassino into my home. They said they should be informed every time I had a guest to stay in the house. It was ridiculous. With the kids, there were always people staying over.

Meanwhile, our witness care office told us that Meldoni had appeared at Norwich Magistrate’s court but pleaded not guilty.

‘He’s a bloody liar!’ Norman roared.

His case was referred to Norwich Crown Court. But two weeks before, he changed plea to guilty and his sentencing date was set for the first week in June .

‘He’ll get his comeuppance,’ Norman promised.

So when Thomassino appeared at Norwich Crown Court we all sat in the public gallery waiting to hear his fate.

As well as stealing the necklace, he pleaded guilty to stealing £1,000 from a safe at a local pub where he’d worked the Spring before he’d moved in with us, and stealing a camera, Ipod and other electrical items from a girlfriend’s friend. He also pleaded guilty to fraud after he sold the stolen camera, claiming it was his.

Found guilty, the judge sentenced Melidoni to nine months for the theft of my necklace and a further eight months for the other thefts and fraud, to run concurrently and suspended for 18 months. During this supervision period he was also required to carry out 300 hours’ unpaid work.

‘So that’s it, is it?’ Norman fumed. ‘After everything he’s put us through, he gets let off with rapped knuckles?’

I felt sick that Melidoni had avoided prison too. He hadn’t even said for sorry to us for what he’d done. And after I’d done his washing and cooked his dinners for him, too…

Suddenly, it all got too much. I jumped to my feet.

‘How could you do it?’ I screamed, waving a photo of his ‘Goddaughter’ and asking how he could steal from them?

But still there was no apology. He had the decency to look ashamed but knowing his background that could have just been another of his acts.

Now, weeks on, we’re trying to put it all behind us and move on but it’s impossible. We’ve lost everything. I don’t even feel comfortable on my own home anymore. It feels soiled thanks to Thomassino’s lies. Poor little Syeira now has a convicted criminal as a Godfather too – hardly the perfect role model.
But at least the police found the necklace.

I’ve asked myself if I was somehow to blame for what happened but my only crime was to want to support another young person and treat him like one of my own. Unfortunately that made me easy pickings for a con man.

Still, it’s made me wary. I won’t be as trusting again. And I’d warn other mums to be careful who their kids bring home – or they might just find themselves dishing up dinner for a con man, like I did.