Matthew Brown is in fact none of the above. He is, in fact, a very naughty boy. He is a serial fraudster who is in somewhat hot water at the moment. He has been working as the campaign manager and special adviser to high-profile Police and Crime Commissioner candidate Mervyn Barrett. As reported by the BBC, he recently resigned from this position after his connections to a US right-wing lobbying group were unveiled by Andrew Gilligan in the Telegraph.
I write this blog not out of spite, but because I believe there is a genuine public interest in naming Matthew Brown as a fraud. He has exploited the goodwill of people I know, cost them money, taken in thousands of people online, abused the trust that exists (and which I greatly value) in the social media world, hurt student barristers, damaged the campaign of a PCC candidate and lied continually.
Matthew is 28 and has a long history of fraud. The first instance I can find is this Evening Standard story from 2004 which describes his conviction of an £18,000 fraud by the then 20 year old, who was eventually recognised by a ticket inspector boarding a first class train. 224 similar offences were taken into account. He is described in that article as an "unemployed spend-thrift" who had a trust fund that would kick in at the age of 25.
The trust fund (if it ever existed) did not step in when the 24 year old Matthew Brown was declared bankrupt in the High Court of Justice on 26 February 2008 (11456 of 2007). The insolvency service informed me that his discharge from bankruptcy was suspended for a period of non-cooperation with the Official Receiver, but he was eventually discharged on 4 May 2009.
In March 2008 (weeks after his bankruptcy) someone purporting to be Renate de Unger, the private secretary of a "Sir Matthew Brown", contacted us about staying in a farmhouse in Suffolk that I part own. We had never heard of him and knew none of the above information. We usually only accept bookings after the cheque clears, but in this case "Sir" Matthew wanted to say at very short notice and a quick google search revealed a Wikipedia entry that seemed to suggest he was "kosher". He asked whether he could land by helicopter, but instead chose to come by car.
The entry was deleted shortly afterwards, but it was full of wild claims such as "In 2000 he founded the Conservative Youth Alliance. In July 2001 the Independent newspaper called him 'the King of Kindergarten politics'... Brown inherited from his father and godfather a multi million pound fortune including a majority stake in the hotel and restaurant company Icehome. It owns a number of upscale properties both in Europe and the Middle East. In February 2008 Brown entered into a civil partnership with Sebastian Innes-Kerr. Brown's mother was born Baroness Renate de Unger, former daughter in law of Edmund de Unger who owns one of the worlds largest collections of Islamic and Medivial [sic] art. Brown's godparents include HRH Princess Margarita of Romania and Lord Bethel, the former Conservative MEP, HIH Prince Valentin Romanoff and Vice Admiral Sir Neville Course."
Blah, blah, blah...
"Sir" Matthew trashed our lovely farmhouse and his cheque bounced. I'm a solicitor by profession (i.e I am on the roll of solicitors, but no longer practise). I immediately sued him for the money at the Belgravia address he had given, obtained judgement against him, but when I came to enforce it (by sending bailiffs round) they were unable to do so.
We did not meet Matthew on this occasion. However, he really is quite brazen. Unbeknown to us he popped up again some time later in our area, this time posing as a "Dr Brown". He stayed in a holiday cottage belonging to a friend and again bounced the cheque. On a third occasion he came up, pretending to be "Paris" the German boyfriend of Anderson Cooper [correction: this was years ago and I've now been told it was Richard Quest], a CNN anchor. He weaseled his way into my best friend's home, had tea with him, and bounced a cheque at a local B&B which belongs to another friend, a local (genuine) Baroness. He left a card in the church signed "Prinz von Thurn und Taxis" and test drove a second hand Aston Martin from a local garage trading off his "friendships" locally.
Because we had never met "Sir Matthew" or "Dr Brown" it took some time to piece all of this together. An email to CNN security confirmed that the person who had turned up was most definitely not Richard Quest's boyfriend. The local café owners had met "Dr Brown" and when we showed them a picture of "Sir Matthew" they confirmed it was the same person. We visited our local police station and gave interviews and an official statement in April 2009. The matter was passed to Stowmarket CID and we were informed that Matthew was due to report to Peterborough Police Station because of other trouble he was involved in. We heard nothing further.
Matthew on Twitter
Then, in the Spring of 2011 a curious character called Banffers QC appeared on Twitter. He managed to take in a fair chunk of the London legal tweeting community. His account began to become quite abusive about gay people and more and more fantastical, which led to my "outing" him as a fake by a blog post on 8 May 2011. What is not on that post is the fact I found out subsequently he had taken in students of law, to whom he offered pupillages "at his chambers". It is so easy to dismiss Twitter fakery as "harmless fun" - in their case they were devastated by the fraud.
Banffers admitted to me that he and the "blonde bf" were frauds by an email from an account called "Sebastian Comte de Polignac" (note: according to his fake Wiki entry he is in a civil partnership with a "Sebastian Innes-Kerr"). He lives in an absolute fantasy world of aristocratic titles and noble lineages. At this point I had no idea Banffers and the fraud who had turned up in Suffolk were the same person.
Matthew said I did him a favour in exposing him. It was not enough to keep him off Twitter for long, however. He reappeared in the summer of 2011. With his new persona he claimed to be a Tea Party US republican fund raiser and the chairman of an organisation called Matthew Pac ("The Fund for the New American Century")
I found out about this new account over a drink with a very bright young barrister pal, Adam. Adam said he suspected Matthew was in fact Banffers QC. I went to follow the Twitter account and found that I'd been pre-emptively blocked without having had any interactions. This struck me as very odd. The account was full of Banffers like pretension: Matthew claimed to have attended 911 commemorations separately with both David Cameron and the Prince of Wales. It spouted forth very right wing Tea Party views and appeared fantastical and disturbed.
We checked the website domain details for MattPac and discovered it was registered to Icehome, the company he had supposedly been left in his father's will. The registered email was an Icehome BT internet account. That is rather odd for a New York registered political fundraising organisation. A few more checks (my friend Gary helped me this time) showed that 81st Street is in 10024, not 10012, and it is either West or East. The phone number doesn't have the correct number of digits for a NY number. We wondered whether Sandra Howard exists, or whether he just liked the name of the wife of the former Tory leader.
This fake encyclopedia entry gave details of "Sir Matthew's" heritage. It states he married Renate Ingeborge de Unger, who this time is his wife, not his mother or his secretary. It also says he graduated from Aberdeen, not Buckingham, as the Wikipedia entry did. I did some googling and found that Matthew de Unger Brown was claiming to be the 10th Lord Banff on Facebook (the account has since been deleted, but I took a screenshot at the time). Lord Banff is in fact an extinct Scottish title.
Yup, we now had a definite link between Banffers QC and Matthew Brown - this was then confirmed when Adam said he had received emails from Banffers from the Icehome BT email account.
Matthew Goes Off Twitter
I contacted Matthew by email at his "MattPac" website. I asked if the American authorities were aware of his prior fraud conviction. I asked if the political "fund raising" organisation was real, and whether the Federal Authorities might be interested in hearing about it if it were not. Matthew responded saying he was sorry for everything and he would delete the website and his latest fake Twitter account. A Wikipedia entry relating to MattPac definitely did go. He had befriended lots of my friends on Twitter (it seems he always targets gays and lawyers) and he promised never to come near them or me again.
He said he was in fact on disability benefit and would pay back, at £25 per week, the money he owed pursuant to the CCJ. I had my doubts about elements of his story (they were confirmed by a magistrate friend), but was prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt. Yes, he'd fraudently weasled his way and exploited the hospitality and good will of my friends and conned me out of money, but I did not want to cause him unnecessary suffering if he was genuinely sorry and willing to make amends. I did not write this blog at that time for those reasons.
All was well until he started missing payments for various reasons, then stopped paying entirely this Spring. I contacted him twice by email: he didn't bother to reply.
More Twitter Fakery
This weekend my boyfriend showed me an odd looking account on Twitter: it was a young Earl called Henry Mountbatten (Lord Medina). Separately I was DMd about it from someone else who had their suspicions it was the return of the infamous Lord Credo who had tricked so many people.
One look down the account, with its pretentious name dropping, mention of cooks and butlers, and the number of gay men it followed, and I had suspected it was Matthew once more. Further, it was set up on 7 May 2011 (the exact weekend of the Bannfers exposé) and didn't tweet for some months after that date. It had 1156 followers, which from 594 tweets is impressive. There were conversations with three separate barristers and even a tweet from the chair of LGBTory and Conservative candidate for Manchester Central wishing him happy birthday.
I therefore decided to call bullshit and tweeted the following last night. There was no denial or response from the account, but within minutes the real life Matthew Brown mysteriously emailed me out of the blue and asked "Peter. How much do I still owe you? I will settle it tonight/tomorrow if you confirm an amount." That would seem to me to be a little too much of a coincidence straight out of the blue and seems quite obviously linked to my tweet: either Matthew was randomly following my every tweet or he had received the @ notification, directly or from a friend running the account.
There is an actual Henry Mountbatten. A quick search on Tattler reveals that he looks nothing like the young guy whose pictures appeared on the account. He has a sister who is on Twitter. Her account looks entirely genuine: no pretension, just tweets mainly about equestrianism, which is clearly her passion. I copied her in on a tweet, asking if she was aware of the account and said "presumably this is your brother". A few moments later the Henry Mountbatten account was deleted. It has since returned and has admitted it is a fraud.
Matthew swears to me he is not behind this account. I don't honestly know and unlike in the other instances I do not have "proof". However it surprise me if there were not a link. If there isn't it, there exists yet another person abusing the trust that exists on social media and in either case I'm fairly sure the real Henry Mountbatten would not be too pleased about it.
PCC Mervyn Barrett Involvement
And finally we come back to Matthew Brown's involvement with the Lincolnshire PCC candidate, Mervyn Barrett. All the time Matthew was pretending to me to be on disability benefits, he was in fact working for Mervyn. I'm not sure that the Telegraph got the story entirely right. I think, for the reasons above, there is a strong likelihood that the fundraising group MattPac doesn't exist and it is another figment of Matthew's imagination. If you like, the Telegraph may have exposed a fraudster, but only by feeding into and believing another fraud of his. [UPDATE: Andrew Gilligan has accepted that MattPac is not registered with the US Federal Election Commission.]
Mervyn is, I am told, a man of great integrity. He appears to be an unwitting victim of Matthew Brown's never-ending fraud. Mervyn has been in the press before regarding his fake followers on Twitter: the Telegraph reported that his account soared from 330 followers on 28 June to 17,014 by 9 July this year, with his new followers largely from Latin America, southeast Asia and the United States. A source close to his campaign told the Sunday Times: “We think perhaps it was the work of an over-enthusiastic supporter as Mervyn would never dream of doing something like this.” One wonders who this could have been.
I feel sorry for Mervyn, but nonetheless the position of PCC is one of great responsibility. I have three specific questions for him relating to Matthew:
- How did someone of Matthew's background (his fraud conviction and bankruptcy are on the public record and easily discovered) come to hold the position of campaign manager?
- Where is his funding coming from? Is it through Matthew's fraudulent activities, or not? This is question the Telegraph quite rightly raises.
- A final minor question is why he has hung on to his 17,000 fake followers? It is one he still has not answered and again goes to his integrity.
As I said out the outset, I write this blog not to "hurt" Matthew for the sake of it. I don't think it's too wild a suggestion to say that he needs help. He may be depressed, he may be vulnerable, but I think he needs to be held account for his actions. He has hurt people and that is wrong. I also agree with the Telegraph: Mervyn Barrett has some questions to answer and the voters in the Lincolnshire PCC election need to have a full picture on his campaign team and activities.
Therefore if you come across Matthew Brown, Dr Matthew Brown, Sir Matthew Brown, Matthew de Unger Brown, Lord Matthew Brown, Anderson Cooper's English boyfriend posing as a German, Sebastian Comte de Polignac, Prinz von Thurn und Taxis, Banffers QC, Lord Banff, or a Lord Medina who looks nothing like the real Lord Medina, I'd advise you to exercise rather a lot of caution. Matthew clearly spends hours creating fake personas, fake Wikipedia entries, fake Twitter and Facebook profiles and at a guess believes some of the lies he has created. He needs help, but we also need protection from the harm he can cause. I suspect this blog sets out only the tip of the iceberg.
UPDATE 23 Oct 21.50:
Mervyn Barrett withdrew from the PCC election this evening at around 5pm. A statement is due to be released tomorrow.
Many thanks to the third commentator below. "SebsFoundation" is indeed a fraudulent account that includes pictures of Matthew (its "CEO") and purports to make charitable grants. There is no record of it whatsoever at the Charity Commission website. The name Sandra again comes up. It is the familiar pattern with the account: Matthew has used it to follow a number of gay men and lawyers. It is also rather odd that an official charity website should be interested in the tweets of gay porn stars such as Kieron Knight and Brent Everett.
The first person that @SebsFoundation followed is @EpicSebastian1 (an account which has not tweeted in some time). It carries the profile picture that Banffers QC passed off as his boyfriend, Sebastian "Comte de Polignac".
UPDATE 24 Oct 15.00
Many thanks to Helen, below, who pointed out this tweet, stored by Topsy. Mervyn Barrett has deleted his Twitter account, but this raises yet further questions about his judgment. As a reminder, @SebsFoundation (account also now deleted) is not a registered charity, it had no working website, and it followed, amongst others, gay porn actors.
UPDATE Oct 24 17.00
Here is Mervyn Barrett's statement on his resignation. My heart genuinely goes out to him. It would appear Andrew Gilligan's exposé did in fact jump the gun, although indirectly it revealed what a liar Matthew is. The fact that Matthew was in charge of Mervyn's twitter account explains the tweet above.
UPDATE Oct 28 17.00
The Sunday Times has produced a full page feature (page 11) based on information set out in this blog and with additional research. Matthew stands accused of having defrauded Mervyn Barrett of £100,000. Matthew married a real life millionairess in her 50s, Renate de Unger Brown in 2005. He was 21 and gay, she was in her 50s. They separated acrimoniously, and she died in 2010. Matthew took her name and passed her off either as his secretary or his mother (as can be seen in the Wikipedia entry above). I have separate information, now verified, that Matthew was convicted of fraud in 2010 and was sentenced to 30 months. He spent around a year in HMP Wayland in Norfolk before being released.
|Sunday Times 28 October 2012|