For the Jewish Chronicle December 16 2016
According to the man I meet in a luxury flat in north-west London, he hails from not one but two great Sephardi banking families — the Cattauis and Sassoons.
He is, he tells me, a former US Marine officer — a veteran of three theatres of war and the winner of a string of medals, including the Purple Heart.
And, at a subsequent meeting, he says, matter of factly, that he has been an undercover agent for the United States government. So secret was his work, he whispers, that all his activities are classified.
“Before 2013, I didn’t exist,” he says. “My job is not a job where I can be in the spotlight.”
All of which might, conceivably, be true.
But what is certainly true is that Sassoon is a convicted fraudster who has been in jail in both the US and the UK, and who has left a trail of debts owed to former business associates.
I am meeting him because he has been attempting to generate interest in his project to set up a “halachic bank”, and has spent months approaching members of the Jewish community about projected business ventures or donations to Jewish causes.
He cuts a burly figure — a swarthy, six-footer dressed in jeans and a Marines baseball cap. Over the course of two meetings, he appears initially charming, but a hint of aggression soon appears as he tries to deflect questions about his activities.
Our first meeting came about after he made contact on the LinkedIn website in August and agreed to be interviewed about his proposed new bank.
During the two-hour long encounter he tells me a tale which is part derring-do, part hard-luck story, with every claim against him the result of other people’s failures and dishonesty.
He was born, he says, in Vermont, in the United States, on the very day the Yom Kippur War broke out in October 1973. He tells me that his parents had been married in Egypt in 1971 and that his mother’s maiden name was Cattaui. He is now, he promises me, running the Cattaui-Sassoon Bank, which will soon open in London and New York.
He claims he joined the US military in 1992 and served in Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia. He was injured in Somalia, and accompanied his mother to Buenos Aires while he was recuperating. Tragedy struck, he wants me to know, when she was killed in the 1994 Amia Jewish community centre bombing.
The story appears to be, like everything else, utter nonsense.
He shows me photographs, including one purporting to be of him at the start of his service in the Marines and another supposedly showing him sky-diving with a rescue dog strapped to his chest on an international exercise.
This second image appeared in the Daily Mail in 2010, identifying the skydiver as an Austrian. But Sassoon is adamant — the Mail miscaptioned the photo and had apologised to the US Navy.
What about his service as a Marine? Yvonne Carlock, the Deputy Public Affairs Officer for Manpower and Reserve Affairs in the US Marines, says: “There are no records of a David Edouard Sassoon serving in the Marine Corps.”
Told this, Sassoon produces what he calls his discharge form — although he refuses to allow it to be photographed for verification.
His claims about his mother’s death appear no less questionable. The name of Josephine Cattaui Sassoon is not on the list of the 85 people killed in the Amia bombing. Attorney Ana E Weinstein, the director of the Documentation and Information Centre of the Jews of Argentina, confirms: “The person you mention is not among the victims of Amia bombing.”
Again Sassoon has an answer — an astonishing one. Brandishing what he claims is a notification of his mother’s death issued by the US embassy in Buenos Aires, he says the embassy had asked for her name not to appear on the official list because she was, like her son, an undercover agent.
Even his time in Fort Dix prison, New Jersey, is a tale of false leads and lies.
Sassoon’s ex-partner, Amanda Evans, says she met him through the Prisoners Abroad organisation and began writing to him when he was in Fort Dix.
Ms Evans, who left her husband and family in Nottingham to join Sassoon in the US, says he told her he had been working on a secret government project aimed at rooting out Muslim extremists in US jails.
But Sassoon is less forthcoming when pressed on his supposed work: “I cannot comment on that officially. I am bound by legal order not to discuss it. All I can say is I did not break the law.
“I did work for the US government, and I did things that I am not allowed to disclose.”
His imprisonment in Britain is more difficult for him to attempt to obfuscate.
He and Ms Evans came to the UK in November 2013 when she found she was pregnant, and settled in Nottingham.
In March 2015 he was jailed for 20 months by Nottingham Crown Court after being convicted of intention to pervert the course of justice and fraud, including lying on an application for a bank loan. He served 10 months.
He acknowledges that he committed fraud, but says he did so because his immigration status meant he was not allowed to work and he needed money to support his family.
He says: “I have a son. Who is going to feed and clothe him? So yes, I did apply for a loan and I did lie on my loan application. And I would do it again for my child, as any father would.”
Since leaving jail in February, Sassoon has been pursuing business activities, although with no great success.
The owners of a secretarial bureau, who do not wish to be named and who worked on a project with him in June and July, say he owes them £13,000. Sassoon acknowledges he owes them money, but says it is less and that he has not paid because his business failed due to cash-flow problems. And in any case, he says there were “lies” in the bureau’s dealings with him.
Another victim of his activities is IT specialist Fraser MacLeod who worked with Sassoon in July. He says: “I’ve been left with a trail of destruction to clear up, including over £15k of unpaid bills.”
But Sassoon denies this: “There were numerous occasions where Mr MacLeod promised to deliver equipment and services and he never did. He never delivered the product.”
Sassoon also appears to have acted less than honourably with a Nottingham businessman, Mike Holland, who built a website for him in 2014.
Mr Holland says: “David pushed my business close to bankruptcy and led to redundancy for two of my colleagues.”
Sassoon says: “Mike Holland was supposed to make a website for me and when he delivered the website, it was not what I asked for. ”
Both Mr Holland and Mr MacLeod have provided evidence that directly contradicts Sassoon’s accounts.
Sassoon was also introduced to Michael Daniel of the Gate Restaurant group.
Mr Daniel says: “He said he could find me ‘millions’ and that it would be possible to open a Gate restaurant in New York. But it turned out he wanted £25,000 to devise a business plan to take to his funders. My friend said I should be wary and so I closed the door on him.”
In recent months Sassoon has made approaches to a number of people in the Jewish community, most of them through his new partner, Sharon Levy.
He contacted the London-based PR Office for representation. Its chief executive, Shimon Cohen, says: “The PR Office was approached by Mr David Sassoon and Ms Sharon Levy of the Cattaui Sassoon Group. We did agree to work with them. However, our agreement was never executed and the relationship ceased.”
On August 31, after a complaint from Ms Levy, Sassoon was arrested by Westminster police “in relation to a fraud-related matter”.
His police bail expired in November, and the police have decided to take no further action.
Two days after his arrest, his LinkedIn profile was replaced with text headed “I am a fraud”.
The text, believed to have been written by Ms Levy, read: “The writer of this message apologises for being one in a string of people who believed the lies this man told, and in so doing gave legitimacy to his delusional tale and its regretful consequences.”