'King of Marbella' John Disley jailed over bank fraud
Update December 2017: John Disley's conviction was later quashed at the Court of Appeal and a retrial ordered. In December 2014 he admitted conspiracy to defraud and was sentenced to two years in prison. The charge concerning Royal Bank of Scotland was ordered to lie on the file.
A conman dubbed the "King of Marbella" and his three accomplices have been jailed over a £675,000 bank fraud.
The scam allowed leader John Disley, 46, of Hertfordshire, to lead a lavish lifestyle in Spain, the court heard.
The group bought companies in trouble and used them to withdraw large sums of cash from the Royal Bank of Scotland just before cheques bounced.
From their office near Preston they electronically moved the cash to other accounts, the city's crown court heard.
'More worried about snow'
Disley, whose office was in Little Hoole, claimed he was restructuring the businesses but instead stripped them of assets and used them to set up bank accounts, obtaining cash through fraudulent cheques, the court heard.
When he was arrested he was convinced the scam would not be traced back to him and told detectives he was "more worried about it snowing".
Disley, of Old House Lane, Kings Langley, earned his Marbella nickname from expats in Spain who saw him as a multi-millionaire living a champagne lifestyle, when in reality he was bankrupt.
His lavish lifestyle included splashing out £30,000 for a palm tree at his villa.
He was found guilty last month of conspiracy to defraud £675,937 from the Royal Bank of Scotland, as well as £214,000 from a financial services company, between May and December 2010.
Sentencing him to four-and-a-half years in prison at Preston Crown Court, Judge Heather Lloyd said: "Your arrogance was apparent when arrested.
"You did not think for one moment that the prosecution would succeed.
"You gave other people scripts to follow but the evidence against you was overwhelming and the jury saw right through you."
'Intimidating when crossed'
Jonathan Stowell, 41, of Bradshawgate, Bolton, and Stuart Hegarty, 44, of Helston Drive, Nottingham, were convicted of the same charge after the seven-week trial.
Disley's "right-hand woman" and personal assistant, Victoria Quinn, 40, from Accrington, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud in October.
Stowell was sentenced to 15 months, Hegarty was jailed for 12 months and Quinn to two years.
Disley was also disqualified from being a company director for eight years, Stowell for three years and Quinn for five years.
Judge Lloyd said Disley could be "intimidating when crossed" and described Quinn as a "thoroughly dishonest woman" with a string of convictions for fraud and theft.
Stowell would help Disley find the businesses to buy and exploit, while Hegarty knowingly paid in cheques from an account which had been closed for some time, the court heard.
Royal Bank of Scotland bank manager Russell Alker, 39, of Preston, Lancashire, who worked at a branch in Wigan, was alleged to be an "inside man", but was cleared by the jury of any involvement in the fraud.
Thomas Aldred, 24, of Preston, the ex-boyfriend of Disley's daughter, Laura, was also cleared.
The convictions followed a two-year investigation by the Lancashire Constabulary Financial Investigation Department, during which inquiries were carried out across the country.
Det Con Keith Allen said: "Disley believed he was above the law.
"He portrayed himself as a legitimate multi-millionaire businessman when in fact he was a bankrupt who made his living by asset-stripping companies which were in financial difficulty.
"It's not right that criminals like Disley should live beyond their means, essentially at the cost of law-abiding members of the community."
A proceeds of crime hearing is scheduled for next March.