Two Pendle fraudsters have been jailed for a total of 85 months for their part in a major advertising scam.
Liam Dinsdale (28), of Alkincoats Road, Colne, was locked up for 55 months and Rudi Lockett (23), of Garnett Street, Barrowford, was jailed for 30 months after both pleaded guilty to fraud and money laundering offences.
They were two of seven defendants to be sent to prison on Wednesday following a lengthy and complex investigation by Cumbria Constabulary.
A final defendant, Alistair Eccles (31), of Castle Road, Colne, was given a 15 month sentence at Preston Crown Court, which was suspended for one year.
In July, 2011, police were contacted by a victim who had been made aware that he had paid in the region of £400,000 in bank transfers and cheques to various bank accounts after receiving various demands for payments of fictitious debts.
It was discovered that the victim had become entrapped in an advertising scam, after he passed one of the false invoices to his accountants as part of his business assessment. It was discovered the VAT registration for the company was bogus.
He had initially been contacted by telephone asking if he wished to advertise his business in a directory.
He was billed for a few hundred pounds, but over the next 15 months became the subject of more intimidating demands from bogus companies via letters, calls, and even men purporting to be bailiffs. The fraudsters then specifically targeted people who paid off the fictitious debts.
DC Nick Doherty, who was part of the investigation team, said: “The suffering that the victims have all gone through is immeasurable. They have been left extremely upset, intimidated, vulnerable and felt that they had no one to turn to for help.
“While the victims were continually trying to raise the money to pay off these never ending debts one of the defendants, Dinsdale had his Maserati sports car parked on the driveway of his three-bedroom house with approximately £44,000 cash was the boot of the car.
“People may read this and ask why did these victims continually pay over so much money. The answer is simply they were all selected and targeted purely because of their good natures and this was meticulously exploited for the fraudsters benefit and greed.”
Police will now look at stripping the defendants of their assets and money through a Proceeds of Crime hearing.