Kid Con: The Boy Who Became a Bamboozling Conman

His name is Mark Acklom, and over the years he’s made a name for himself, telling women he’s a millionaire and an MI6 agent spy. The man became Britain’s most wanted man and has even been described as a “despicable psychopath.” Harsh, yes, but he deserves it.

Mark Acklom, Maria Yolanda Ros Rodriguez / Carolyn Woods / Mark Acklom / Mark Acklom.
Source: YouTube

The man has bamboozled and bewitched multiple victims out of their life savings, simply moving on to the next one when he’s done with them. As his name and face started to show up on newspaper pages and TV screens, more and more details about his troubled childhood started surfacing.

The Red Flags Came Early

Most children love pets, especially dogs. Well, Mark Acklom wasn’t like other kids. His mother, Diana, told The Daily Mail that when her son was two, she bought the family’s first puppy. “She was sitting on the stairs. He went up and just kicked her out of the way. Most children would go up to a puppy and cuddle it.”

A dated portrait of Mark Acklom.
Mark Acklom. Source: BBC

The little dog-kicking boy grew up to be one of the UK’s most prolific conmen and most-wanted fugitives. Chasing the man led to a dramatic, balcony-leaping arrest in Switzerland, extradition to the UK, and a five-year prison sentence.

The Master Swindler

But before all that happened, Acklom led a wild and wicked life, full of flamboyant crimes that blurred the line between beauty and brutality. He was a man who knew how to speak, swindle, and sway people.

A dated photo of Acklom after his first fraud conviction.
Mark Acklom. Source: YouTube

He effectively and systematically ruined the lives of everyone who entered his orbit. You know, the master swindler type, the type that makes people furious about the fact that they ever believed a word he told them.

Hi, I’m Marc, a Gynecologist and Spy

Acklom used all kinds of aliases. Some knew him as Marc Ros Rodriguez, or Mark Conway; some knew him as Marc Saunders, Mark Long, Marco Rossi, George Kennedy, or Dr. Zac Moss. He told some that he was a barrister, while others were introduced to an ad executive or an event manager.

An image of Mark Acklom.
Source: Sky News

At one point, he even he told people he was a gynecologist. But his favorite cover was being an MI6 agent. It’s always cool to be a spy. It doesn’t matter who knew him or in what capacity, they were all made poorer for it.

When the Kid Became a Con

His life of crime started when he was young. The kid became a conman during his days at a private school, Eastbourne College. There, he managed to swindle $16,000 from one of his teachers by presenting a phony film company as an investment opportunity.

An exterior shot of Eastbourne College.
Source: Eastbourne-college.co.uk

The teacher, one of his first real cons, was only hoping for a nice return on his investment. But his frauds began in his own home. He stole his mother’s custom-made mink coat and sold it for some cash. His mother reported that the coat had been “draped over the banister.” There was no doubt that it was her son who took it.

A Spending Spree With Daddy’s AMEX

Acklom was 16 when he posed as a rich, 25-year-old stockbroker to land a $575,000 mortgage (from Leeds Permanent Building Society). A year later, the kid stole his father’s American Express card and enjoyed a three-month spending spree.

A photo of a billboard promoting the American Express platinum card / A picture of Mark Acklom’s parents.
Photo by AaronP, Bauer-Griffin, GC Images, Getty Images / Source: YouTube

His dad ended up getting a bill for $42,000 from a private jet charter firm. By 1990, the teenager was arrested for the first time. In his questioning with the police, he told them he thought spending close to a thousand dollars on food was normal. He was 18 when he admitted to nine charges of theft, deception and forgery.

While on Bail, He Made a Hit

His case went to trial, and at court, Acklom showed up dressed in suit and tie, looking deceptively older. While he was out on bail, awaiting the court’s decision, the kid was already making his next move. He made a reported $26,000 by selling an interview of his exploits to News of the World.

A portrait of Mark Acklom.
Source: Daily Mirror

The papers dubbed him “Kid Con” and he was paid handsomely for the story. In the famed interview, Acklom claimed to be working for a rich woman in the real estate business.

Using His Brain to Get What He Wanted

He told the news outlet that he and this woman were in a sexual relationship, and that she was giving him a $650 weekly wage. Acklom said in the interview, “Yeah, I am giving her one and although I am young, I know how to treat women.”

A picture of a younger Mark Acklom outside his home.
Source: News Group Newspaper Ltd.

“I have had dozens since I started using my brain to get money and get what I want. Treat them right and they will do anything for you.” The woman from the real state firm turned out to be real, but she denied everything he said.

The Interview Was Fake

She was later sent a signed remission from Acklom admitting that the interview was false. It was all made up. Surprise, surprise. Eventually, the court made its decision. Acklom was found guilty of $1.3 million in fraud and was sentenced to four years in a young offender’s institution.

A surveillance tape of Mark Acklom inside a clothing store.
Mark Acklom. Source: YouTube

His poor parents had to sell their home to cover for their son’s overwhelming debts. According to the prosecutor, David Fisher, Acklom committed his crimes because his parents trusted him too much. Fisher stated, his “father allowed his son too much latitude which may have been based on too much genuine parental trust.”

“I Am Not a Psycho”

But the defense attorney, Charles Conway, saw it differently. Conway saw Acklom as a disturbed teenager who was “out of touch with reality and needed psychiatric treatment.” Acklom made another statement at the time referring to his brain.

A portrait of Mark Acklom.
Source: YouTube

“I have used my brain for the wrong things, not the right things.” He continued, “I am not a psycho or a manic depressive, but I do have a problem knowing the difference between right and wrong.” Conway even blamed those who lent the boy money.

Cut the Bull***

“To a limited extent, these people shut their eyes.” The defense lawyer further said that the image of a “conceited, narcissistic, self-centered conman” is wrong. He believes Acklom is just “an inadequate disturbed boy who has been living without any sense of reality so he could seek the attention of his father.”

An image of Mark Acklom sailing on a boat.
Source: Pinterest

The judge was not taking any excuses. To him, there was no fantasy world and no mental illness. What he had were the symptoms of a conman. The judge also considered the fraud against Acklom’s teacher to be the worst con of all.

Less Than Two Years Later…

But that was in 1991. Acklom had his whole criminal life ahead of him. But before he was out on the streets again, Acklom heard his mother tell the press that it was “disgusting” that her son’s legal team was actually going to appeal the sentence. Kid Con served less than half of his four-year sentence.

A dated photo of Mark outside court.
Source: YouTube

Soon enough, he was back out in the free world, taking liberties to steal and swindle. He became much more of a professional as he went on. He found a job and met a woman.

Kid Con Becomes a Dad and Leaves Family Behind

He got a job in administration and met a woman in a nightclub. Soon enough, the two were married and started a family. Kid Con now had two kids of his own. Of course, his lies continued. On the marriage certificate, Acklom wrote “barrister” as his profession.

An image of Acklom’s fake ID used to commit fraud.
Mark Acklom. Source: Pinterest

It didn’t take long for Acklom to leave his family behind and pursue his next con. It was only after the birth of his second child that he left for Spain. In Spain, he saw his way to prison three more times. All offenses included false identification.

Family No.2 in Spain

In 2004, Acklom was arrested for claiming to be the head of a retail association. In 2006, he appeared in court for art fraud. In 2008, he convinced two brothers to front a $247,000 deposit for three Chelsea apartments that he never even owned, which landed him in jail yet again. All of these happened in Spain.

An image of Mark Acklom pictured with his wife, Maria Yolanda Ros Rodriguez.
Mark Acklom, Maria Yolanda Ros Rodriguez. Source: Olive Press Spain

Also in Spain, in 2009, Acklom married his second wife, a Spanish woman named Maria Ros Rodriguez. They also had two children, before he headed back to the UK. Back home, he defrauded an I.T. specialist named Christopher Frampton, who was left broke.

A Pro at Breaking Banks and Hearts

Acklom was a pro at starting and dissolving companies – several at the same time and all under different identities. The man was on a mission, and nothing was going to stop him. A former associate of Acklom’s once said that beyond robbing people, the man enjoyed breaking hearts.

A photo of a wedding dress from a woman supposed to marry Acklom.
Source: YouTube

“He loves making women fall in love with him. He gets a kick out of having them buy wedding dresses for a ceremony he knows will never take place because he’ll have vanished. In the decade I knew him, he fooled more than 50 women.”

Carolyn Woods: The Woman He Shouldn’t Have Messed With

It turns out that fooling a woman named Carolyn Woods was a big mistake for Acklom. But before Woods could help bring Kid Con down, she had to first become his victim. It all began in 2012, when he walked into her life.

A video still of Carolyn Woods speaking during an interview.
Carolyn Woods. Source: BBC

Woods was a 54-year-old divorcee with some money to spend. One day, Woods called her 27-year-old daughter, Laral, to tell her that she was going on a date with a man named Mark Conway (interesting that he took the last name of his first defense lawyer).

Something Serious? So Soon?

She told her daughter about how they had met the day before at the shop she worked in. Acklom walked into the clothing store, tried on a jacket, and charmed Woods enough to have her give him her number. It had been a while since she got such attention, so it was flattering, a compliment.

An image of Carolyn Woods with her daughter.
Carolyn Woods, Carolyn’s daughter. Source: YouTube

On the phone, Lara could hear the excitement in her voice. A few days later, Woods told her daughter about the successful date and how she was positive they would become something serious. A relationship and moving in together? They had only just met!

Perfect Timing

But that was Woods. She had accepted her ex-husband’s proposal after only six dates and their marriage lasted for 23 years. So, her instincts couldn’t have been that bad. Except this time, they were. Woods had been single since 2003.

A portrait of Carolyn Woods.
Carolyn Woods. Source: Pinterest

Ever since, she had been renting a cottage and keeping her money from the sale of their house until she was ready to buy a new home. She was in her mid-50s, in a new place, with new friends. It was the perfect time for Kid Con to sweep right in.

Entering the Circus

On the surface, he seemed like a wealthy businessman, living the jet-set lifestyle. He whisked Woods off her feet, taking her on lavish shopping trips and showering her with expensive gifts. Lara, who met up with her mom a few weeks into the relationship, noticed how her mom was “simply glowing.”

An image of Carolyn Woods holding a photograph of Mark Acklom.
Carolyn Woods. Source: SWNS

When Lara’s boyfriend asked her if she’d had a facelift, Woods replied with, “No, I’m in love…” Months into the relationship, Woods left her job at the clothing shop and gave up her rented cottage. She moved in with Acklom – into a prestigious housing complex called The Circus.

Bragging to the Kids

Acklom told her he owned the house, only for her to later find out that he had actually paid a year’s rent upfront with money that he had “borrowed” from Woods. During Easter, Woods’ two daughters visited them at their new home.

Carolyn Woods poses for a picture at home.
Carolyn Woods. Source: SWNS

Acklom knew what he had to do – impress them. He bragged about his wealth and power: how he could survive on only three hours sleep a night and how he could effectively shut down the UK economy with a simple phone call. He also said he was working in the World Trade Center when 9/11 struck.

So, What Do You Do for a Living?

Lara asked him what he did for a living. His clever response was “I play with the banks’ money.” He wasn’t necessarily lying about that… Aside from being generally disagreeable, Lara recalled Acklom as “foul-mouthed.”

A photo of Carolyn and Lara.
Carolyn Woods, Lara Woods. Source: Pinterest

Yet, all the while, her mom was sitting calmly next to him, “as if in a trance.” Lara was not a fan of this obnoxious, cocky man in her mom’s life, but she could see how convincing he was. The next day, Lara and her boyfriend asked Acklom a few questions, to which he was “similarly loathsome.”

Falling Deeper Under His Spell

Her mom was quick to leap to his defense, claiming he was just nervous to meet the family. But in reality, it was typical sweetheart swindling behavior – he was isolating Woods from her family. As the months went on, Woods fell deeper under his spell.

A photo of Carolyn Woods today.
Carolyn Woods. Photo by James Glossop

She was turning into a “shadow of her former self,” Lara described. He had told her he was a spy and gave her multiple cellphones to reach her with. It meant she feared making any plans in case he had fly in after one of his “secret missions.”

A Phony Brain Tumor

At the end of the day, their “amazing” relationship meant Woods was sitting at home, alone, waiting for news of his status. With Acklom, life was dramatic. In November of 2012, he said he had been in the hospital with a brain tumour.

An image of Carolyn Woods leaving the courthouse.
Source: SNWS

But wouldn’t Woods visit him and see it was fake? No, he didn’t let her visit him. Why? Because “MI6 had banned him from receiving visitors.” He went so far as to meet her in the parking lot of the Frenchay Hospital in Bristol, having expertly bandaged his head, with a drain apparently coming out.

Let the Unravelling Begin

By the summer of 2013, everything unraveled. Acklom had told Woods to meet him in France, but he never showed up. After calling one of his contacts, Woods learned her lover’s real name. It all came to the surface from there.

Carolyn speaks in a televised interview.
Carolyn Woods. Source: YouTube

Woods discovered many things about Acklom that shocked her. For one, she learned that he had been previously married. She also found out that the apartment and car he gave her wasn’t owned by him but was rented instead. And he had been using her money to pay for his Spanish wife Maria and their two children!

Turned Away by the Police

Lara urged her mom to report him to the police. Although Woods was in a state of shock, she finally agreed to go to the authorities. Believe it or not, Woods and her daughter were turned away “by an unsympathetic officer” who told them to report their claims online to Action Fraud.

A security tape shows Mark Acklom in Geneva.
Mark Acklom. Source: SWNS

At the time, the police weren’t aware that Acklom was committing multiple crimes under multiple aliases. Woods decided she wasn’t going to just sit and wait to see what happened. She contacted a private detective and journalists to find Acklom and warned others of his crimes.

Like Out of a James Bond Film

She was on a mission, but felt defeated, nonetheless. Woods said the whole thing was like “something out of James Bond” and that she “wished he had actually killed me.” Woods stayed with her daughter during the aftermath; Lara saw her mom in tears everyday.

A video still of Carolyn Woods during an interview.
Source: YouTube

It was simply heartbreaking. The psychological damage Acklom inflicted on her was overwhelming. He went through immense lengths to convince her that their lives were in danger. He made her fully dependent on him. And it was all a sham? It was devastating news.

Becoming a Most-Wanted Criminal

The good news: an arrest warrant was issued for Acklom. The bad news: he’s on the run. Acklom ran off to Spain again, fleeing the charge of defrauding Woods of nearly $1 million. In 2015, Woods told the police of Acklom’s whereabouts.

An image of Acklom in court.
Mark Acklom. Source: YouTube

With that, he was put on the National Crime Agency’s most wanted criminals in Europe list. By 2017, a photo of Acklom was published in Switzerland, which caused a media frenzy. And then finally, in the summer of 2018, Acklom was arrested in Zurich.

The Dramatic Balcony Arrest

It turns out that Acklom was hiding out in Switzerland, under other aliases of course, performing more cons. He was convincing businessmen that he was investing in Elon Musk.

He was finally traced to a luxury apartment in Zurich, where he had been living with his Spanish wife and two children.

A mugshot of Mark Acklom.
Mark Acklom. Source: YouTube

The arrest proved to be as dramatic as his life, involving him being tackled to the ground on a balcony. He couldn’t resist one last grand attempt, of trying to escape his impending arrest by trying to jump off the balcony.

Guilty, Your Honor… But…

He was being extradited back to the UK, but he tried to fight it. Thankfully, his appeals failed, and he was brought to the UK in 2019. He was soon to face eight counts of fraud and 12 counts of converting criminal property.

An image of Mark Acklom in court.
Photo by Martin Brunt

Acklom ultimately pleaded guilty to five of the offences. He also made a statement in court, saying that when he met Woods, he “was a genuine customer entering the shop in which she worked” and that he “had no prior knowledge of her and did not ‘target’ her in any way.”

He Said, She Said

He went on to assert that none of what eventually took place was pre-planned. “We got chatting and I was genuinely attracted to her.” He said he truly wanted to pursue a relationship with Woods without knowing of her savings.

An image of Carolyn Woods during an interview.
Carolyn Woods. Source: Sky News

“Carolyn Woods became infatuated with me very quickly,” he stated. He explained that once Woods discovered he was having “cash flow problems,” she was quick to offer to lend him money, and he “gratefully accepted.” What’s tricky about these swindling situations, is that it comes down to her word against his.

The Picture He Painted

Acklom said that Woods “was not concerned about the purposes to which the money would be used and the details of this were never discussed between us.” He painted a picture of him being in need and her being happy to help.

A photo of Mark Acklom arriving in the UK.
Source: Sky News

A senior investigating officer, Gary Haskins, was not having any of what Acklom was saying. He thanked Woods “wholeheartedly for supporting the police investigation and for being prepared to give crucial evidence in court” against the “career criminal and a master manipulator.”

Is Five Years Enough?

The sentencing judge, Judge Martin Picton, stated in court that Acklom acted in a “ruthless and utterly selfish manner.” He told him, “You took advantage of your victim in a cruel and cynical manner.” With that, Acklom was given five years and eight months in prison.

A photo of Acklom’s Swiss residency permit as Marc Long.
Source: Sky News

Woods has gone on to write a book about the ordeal and has been candid about her experience. She said that only the support from her two daughters succeeded in stopping her suicidal thoughts. Even Diana, Acklom’s own mother, said she thinks her son will never learn and will continue to offend after his release.

Let Mama Pay the Bills

In her late 70s, Diana has to work to pay off her son’s debts. She has been working two jobs ever since he ruined the family’s fortune. Aside from stealing from his parents, Acklom stole hundreds of thousands from his brothers, too.

A photo of Acklom’s ID as Marc Long.
Source: Pinterest

Her son’s cons ended up destroying her marriage as well. The mother-of-five was left in a hopeless situation. “The only pension I have is my state pension,” she told The Daily Mail.

Did He Go Undiagnosed?

“The only thing I’ve got is this house which is mortgaged anyway, so I have to work five days a week at 74. Why should I be working at this age?” she asked. “But he doesn’t think about things like that.” The way she sees it, her son has a disorder.

A mugshot of Mark Acklom.
Source: Avon and Somerset Police

“I’ve always said he has got a personality disorder. I worried about him even when he was three. It was never diagnosed. I have no clue if it had been diagnosed whether it would have made a difference.”

Is This the End of His Story?

Back when Acklom made his first court appearance, his father Bryan said “I don’t think he realizes what he has done. I don’t think he feels anything.” Diana added: “We have suffered hell. It was us who reported him to the police, and it was the hardest decision we have ever had to make.”

A general view of the UK.
Photo by Hollie Adams/Getty Images

Acklom is currently serving prison time, but let’s be honest – this is probably not the end of his story. This may be his fifth jail term, but after each of the last four, he went straight back to the open road to defraud more people.