Nine men have been jailed after police in Durham broke up a mortgage fraud.
Michael Robinson, 44, from Murton, admitted one charge of conspiracy to defraud and two of conspiracy to convert criminal property when he appeared before Teesside Crown Court on Friday. He was jailed for six years three months.
Eight other defendants pleaded guilty to similar offences and were jailed for lesser terms of between 15 and 30 months.
Evidence was given that found a total of £1.7 million had been taken with only £400,000 recovered.
The prosecution described how in 2007/8 the gang searched the Land Registry until they found suitable properties that were mortgage free. They then faked documents to make it look as if they owned the property before approaching banks to take out a mortgage.
The gang took out mortgages on four properties but the fraud was revealed when the took out a £525,000 mortgage with the Bank of Ireland on a property belonging to Charles Badoy, a French banker living in London. They also hacked into his account to make the repayments.
Prosecutor Mark Giuliani commented: “They used Mr Badoy’s identity because they thought he wouldn’t notice a few thousand going out of his bank account. In fact, he noticed straight away”
Recorder Michael Taylor described Robinsons as having a “Walter Mitty sort of existence,” after the court was told that he signed letters under the name Lord Robinson.
Recorder Taylor also said that the crime had not been victimless as one of the householders had lost her house as a result of the fraud.
Police confirmed that though Robinson had never been a mortgage broker licensed with the FSA he had worked in the industry all his life.