Nicola Boardman, aged 34, told her parents, Frank and Marilyn, that she needed the money for research projects, rent and travel while studying towards a PhD in social sciences at Oxford University.
“There were no interviews, no scholarships. Everything was fabricated,” said prosecutor Phillip Lee.
The mother-of-one instead spent the money on drugs, lavish holidays abroad and a secret wedding her parents were not even invited to, a court in Truro heard.
“She even lied to her parents that she had had a stillborn child and went as far as to invite them to a ‘sham’ ceremony where the ashes were scattered. In fact she had terminated the pregnancy,” The Guardian reports.
Though addicted to heroin as ateenager, Boardman appeared to have kicked the habit after rehabilitation and went on to graduate from Plymouth University with a first class bachelor’s degree.
However, she later relapsed after falling in with the wrong crowd, the court heard.
Boardman’s parents quit their jobs and sold their home after believing their daughter’s claims that she would be extremely wealthy after finishing her academic work.
“Boardman completed a detailed schedule of expenses and her parents decided to sell their home after she presented fake draft sales contracts for her work worth £3m,” said Lee.
Her 60-year-old father, who has two other children, said: “I have been deprived of my retirement that I have worked hard for, for the last 40 years.”
Boardman told police her “addiction had spiralled out of control” and “words could not express” how sorry she was. She was jailed for three years and four months after pleading guilty to fraud.
Judge James Dingemans described it as a “prolonged” and “sophisticated” operation that serves as yet another example of the “destruction caused to society because of the use of drugs”.