A GANG of fraudsters who posed as ‘fake sheikhs’ in a bid to con a finance company out of £1.5m have been jailed for a total of 12 and a half years.
The quartet – including one man from Tarporley – used the identities of wealthy Arab brothers Said and Malthoum Mebjar and claimed they would back the loan with an exclusive flat in London's West End.
But in reality the property had been hijacked using land registry documents.
The fraudsters were arrested in April 2010 after lenders Masthaven Ltd became suspicious and stopped the deal.
Frontman Jonathan Flynn, 38, was convicted of conspiracy to commit fraud after a trial at the Old Bailey and given a four-and-a-half-year prison term.
Co-conspirators Shane Martin, 51, from Tarporley and Ahmed Ali, 47, who pleaded guilty to their roles in the scam, each received two-and-a-half-year sentences.
A fourth man, Shakil Ahmed, 36, who donned the Arab gear along with Ali as part of the con, was given a three-year jail term in his absence after he went on the run earlier this year.
A warrant was issued for his arrest.
Judge Richard Hawkins told them: “In carrying out this fraud, the identities of real people were assumed as part of the plan and that aggravates the matter.”
The scheme involved an attempt to get £1.5m from bridging loan company Masthaven Ltd backed by a property in Orme Square in Bayswater, west London.
Prosecutor Jonathan Kinnear said: “At various times Shakil and Ali took on various identities and poses as wealthy Arabs. They were fake sheikhs.
“Mr Flynn effectively was the front man. Forged passports were used to support the false application and it was the defendants who caused that false application to be submitted.
“Behind the scenes Shane Martin was directing the other conspirators.
“He was in contact with Jonathan Flynn and he told Mr Flynn what he should do.”
Police were called in by bosses at Masthaven after its managing director Andrew Bloom became suspicious of the forged documentation.
Ali, of Bourne Terrace, Paddington, Martin, of Hill View, Tarporley, and Ahmed, of Hadfield Close, Manchester, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation relating to the loan on Orme Square.
Flynn, of Woodhall Lane, Stanningley, Pudsey, Leeds, was convicted of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation relating to the Orme Square loan but acquitted of the same charge in relation to a Porchester Gate loan.