Bradford Telegraph and ArgusBrighouse ‘Ponzi’ cheat told to repay £650,000 (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)

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Brighouse ‘Ponzi’ cheat told to repay £650,000

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Brighouse ‘Ponzi’ cheat told to repay £650,000 Brighouse ‘Ponzi’ cheat told to repay £650,000

A conman who funded his lavish lifestyle through a multi-million pound fraud has been been told to repay £650,000 to ripped-off investors.

Although John Hirst enjoyed a millionaire’s lifestyle in Majorca a court heard that the 64-year-old fraudster could only pay back a fraction of the £4.7 million he swindled from ex-pats and friends over an eight-year period.

Hirst, of Huddersfield Road, Brighouse, was the mastermind behind the so-called “Ponzi” scam and in August 2012 he was jailed for nine years. Yesterday Hirst was brought from custody to Bradford Crown Court for a final hearing under the Proceeds of Crime Act. Judge Jonathan Durham Hall QC, who jailed Hirst, was told that financial investigations by the Serious Fraud Office had resulted in an agreed benefit figure for Hirst of £4,717,042.

But prosecutor Lisa Freeman said Hirst only had available assets totalling £650,522.94.

Just under £200,000 of that sum is already held by investigators and the outstanding amount is made up of cash gifts to other people and money in other accounts.

Hirst also owns a speedboat said to be worth about £20,000.

Judge Durham Hall agreed to make a formal compensation order totalling £650,522.94 which will be paid to investors on a pro rata basis.

Hirst has been given six months to pay the total sum and the judge told him that he faced another four years in jail if the cash was not handed over.

Last year Judge Durham Hall made compensation orders against Hirst's estranged wife Linda and his accomplice in the fraud Richard Pollett.

The three compensation orders mean that out-of-pocket investors could get back about £1.5 million.

Hirst and his wife enjoyed luxury holidays and lavish wedding celebrations in Las Vegas and Majorca with some of their ill-gotten gains.

During yesterday’s hearing it was suggested that Hirst might have a further £221,000 in so-called “hidden assets”, but Miss Freeman said at this stage that money did not appear to be available for collection.

“The benefit figure of £4.7 million remains in essence a lifelong debt,” she explained, saying if further assets come to light they can be confiscated.

Judge Durham Hall said the SFO had done a very thorough job in trying to track down every account and follow through every line.

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