SERVING prisoners at a jail near Uttoxeter were recruited for a mortgage scam which cost banks and building societies hundreds of thousands of pounds, a judge heard.
The convicts were taken to a bent mortgage broker in Birmingham during release time from Sudbury Open Prison to fill in application forms.
Mr Francis Laird QC, prosecuting, said that as prison inmates they had no income and no prospect of paying the mortgage or taking possession of the properties.
But they were given phantom occupations with annual salaries of up to £80,000 in faked accounts provided by book-keeper Ruth Berridge, who has been jailed for five years.
The fraud was dreamt up by a criminal mastermind, now on the run, who cannot be named under an order of the court.
The mortgage cash ended up in his hands and he doled out sums of between £8,000 and £10,000 to the convicts for their services.
The properties purchased by the inmates, mainly in Leeds and West Yorkshire, had to be repossessed with massive losses to the mortgage lenders, Stafford crown court heard.
The corrupt broker was Amarjit Lall, aged 39, of Yardley Wood Road, Birmingham, who was jailed for two years after admitting conspiracy to defraud.
Convicts involved in the scam included Allan Hall, aged 33, from Coventry, serving six years for robbery in 2003; Paul Geraghty, aged 32, from Bolton, jailed for nine years for drugs offences in 2003; Mark Holland, aged 41, from St Helens, jailed for 10 years for drugs offences in 2002 and Darren Morris, aged 37, from Manchester, jailed for seven years in 2004 for robbery and firearms offences.
Also involved was Morris’s step-brother, Lee Faulkener, aged 31, from Sale, Cheshire a man of previous good character. They each admitted charges of obtaining a money transfer by deception.
Hall was jailed for 16 months, while Geraghty, Morris and Holland each got 12 months.
Judge Michael Cullum told them: “Where a large fraud is perpetrated by a serving prisoner, there has to be an immediate custodial sentence.” Another convict to make a false application just after his release from HMP Sudbury, Owen Ellis, aged 46, was jailed for 16 months earlier this year.
Faulkener was sentenced to 10 months jail suspended for a year and ordered to do 200 hours unpaid community work.
The ‘Sudbury Prison fraud’ was discovered during a Staffordshire police investigation, codenamed Operation Crystallite, into mortgage frauds perpetrated by brokers Stephen Lamb from Tamworth, who has been jailed for five years, and Michael Bullock, from Stafford, jailed for three years.
Berridge supplied phoney accounts for them using the name of a totally innocent and unconnected certified accountant, Alice Rivers, from Streetly, in the West Midlands, whose business was ruined as a result.
Daniel Travers, for Morris, said his client intended to rent out the flat he purchased, but ‘never got the keys’.
Thomas Fitzpatrick, for Holland, said his client was coming to the end of his sentence after five years inside and wanted to start afresh by renting out the property and eventually selling it.
He said: “There are a number of common themes in respect of the defendants committing these offences while serving sentences: they are divorced from the men who were deeply involved and gained the most reward.”