Three men including two from Brighton and Hove have been jailed today (Wednesday 31 July) after being convicted of a betting fraud.
They were found guilty of conspiracy to defraud through a horse race betting brochure investment fraud.
They and three others previously convicted are thought to have obtained up to £5 million from unsuspecting investors over six years.
John “Jock” McCracken, 47, unemployed, of Whitehawk Road, Brighton, John Brice, 40, self-employed, of Sandringham Drive, Hove, and Matthew Thole, 40, a company director, of Cefn Mably Park, Michaelston-y-Fedw, Cardiff, were convicted after a two-week trial at Lewes Crown Court.
They were found guilty of conspiring with each other between April 2003 and February 2008 and with Paul Spicer, Gregory Spicer and Lee O’Donnell and others.
The conspiracy involved defrauding prospective and actual participants in various purported betting services and purported investment services.
- made false claims in relation to the betting services
- made false claims in relation to the investment services
- sought and received payment for their fraudulent services
McCracken and Thole were each jailed for four years by Judge Richard Hayward. Brice was jailed for five years.
In June the Spicers and O’Donnell, all from Brighton and Hove, were convicted of the same conspiracy to defraud at Lewes Crown Court and jailed for 15 years.
The convictions follow complaints made by victims across Britain to Sussex Police and to trading standards officers.
Victims were sent glossy brochures encouraging them to join horseracing betting investment schemes which were fake.
Many other complaints were received about similar brochures and similar scams under the fictitious names of Tim O’Brien Racing, Lawrence Marshall, David Best Racing, Raymond Miller, Tim O’Brien, the Money System, Anthony Lloyd, Robert Carter and Paul Howell.
These later turned out to be run by the same men.
Hundreds of thousands of fraudulent brochures were sent unsolicited to consumers across the country, with evidence suggesting that this had been happening since 1999.
The brochures all contained promises and guarantees of profits as well as testimonials from satisfied users, most of which are thought to be fictitious.
Detective Constable Valerie Henwood, of the Sussex Police Major Fraud Team, said: “This was an excellent example of co-operation between law enforcement agencies.
“We separately had information about the activities of these men, who were working together as an organised crime group.
“However, we soon combined our resources and, working with the Crown Prosecution Service, were eventually able bring them all to court.
“It was a classic example of advance fee fraud, in which the criminals lure investors into parting with money, sometimes in very large amounts, on the promise of services which never arrive, and then disappear.
“This case serves as a timely reminder to horse racing punters – be very careful about entrusting your money to anyone.
“The old saying applies – if something looks too good to be true, it usually is.”
Detective Sergeant Sally Smith said: “We were pleased to see that Detective Constable Henwood was also formally commended by the judge for her work on this complex inquiry.
“We will now be continuing inquiries with a view to a court hearing later this year on a date yet to be arranged at which we hope to seek confiscation orders against all defendants under the Proceeds of Crime Act for their available assets, part of which could go to victims in compensation.
“It may be possible to combine this with the pending confiscation hearing for the Spicers and O’Donnell but that is not yet confirmed.”
Jeffery Bloor, 39, from Lancing, is still sought over the same conspiracy.
He was described as white, 5ft 6in tall, with blue eyes and short straight ginger hair.
He is believed to be clean shaven and typically wears jeans and t-shirt.
Bloor failed to answer his bail to be charged with the other three in June last year and his details were circulated to all forces and all ports.
Active inquiries continue to try to trace him. His last known address was in Lancing but he also has connections in Worthing.
Sussex Police said: “When he is arrested he will be charged with the same offence as the other three and will also be interviewed about the offence of failing to answer his bail.”
Anyone who knows of his whereabouts is asked to call Sussex Police on 101 or the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.