Five guilty of £20m north Wales mortgage fraud

Image caption The fraudsters made almost 200 mortgage applications - some for homes that did not exist

A former police officer is one of five people who have been convicted of massive mortgage fraud worth £20m.

Antony Lowry-Huws, 63, from Kinmel Bay near Rhyl, was described as the driving force behind the scams which took five years to bring to court.

He was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud, alongside his wife, a Conwy business partner, a Flintshire solicitor and a Lancashire surveyor.

The five will be sentenced in September.

The convictions follow a five-month trial in which the jury had to consider 50,000 items of evidence.

The court was told that Lowry-Huws, along with his four co-defendants, had duped mortgage lenders into handing over thousands of pounds on properties across north Wales.

Co-conspirator Frank Edward Darlington, from Barnoldswick in Lancashire, acted as the surveyor in the transactions, providing false property valuations and rental income figures.

Solicitor Nicholas John Jones, 53, based in Flint at the time, carried out the conveyancing work and submitted the fraudulent mortgage applications.

The scams were backed by Lowry-Huws' business partner, property speculator Sheila Rose Whalley from Llanfairtalhaiarn in the Conwy Valley, and also by Lowry-Huws' wife Susan.

In total, 189 mortgage applications were made between May 2003 and June 2008.

Non-existent homes

The prosecution said the deceit was achieved by inflating the actual value of the property used as security, hiding the fact that in some cases no deposit was put down, or inflating the rental income potential to make the mortgage rate more acceptable.

In some cases the apartments on which mortgages were advanced simply did not exist.

Judge Rhys Rowlands told Antony Lowry-Huws, Darlington and Whalley that they had acted out of "pure greed and nothing more", and warned them to expect "fairly significant" prison sentences.

He said he accepted that Susan Lowry-Huws had been acting under the influence of her husband, and that would be taken in to account during sentencing.

But he told solicitor Nicholas Jones: "Sadly, the same cannot be said for you.

"You plainly knew what was going on.

"An additional feature in your case is that it is a very clear breach of trust that you owed to the lenders, which you breached."

All five were granted bail to await sentencing, under the condition that they surrender their passports and are subject to a curfew monitored by electronic tagging.

The judge thanked the jurors for their diligence in considering the case and said he would excuse them from ever serving on a jury again.

Responding to the convictions, a spokesperson for North Wales Police said: "North Wales Police welcome the verdicts of guilty on individuals convicted of this substantial mortgage fraud, one of the largest investigations of this nature ever to be conducted in England and Wales.

"The investigation took almost five years to complete and get through trial.

"It is inappropriate at this stage to say more save to say thank you to all members of the investigative and prosecution team for their dedication and hard work on a very challenging inquiry."

A second surveyor - George Walker, 58, of Colwyn Bay - was found not guilty of any involvement by the jury.

All defendants denied conspiring to defraud and conspiring to falsify documents between May 2003 and June 2008 to induce false finance and mortgage payments.

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