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Brighouse swindler is jailed for 9 years over £10m fraud
7:00am Saturday 1st September 2012 in News
A smooth-talking swindler who lived a champagne lifestyle on the proceeds of a £10 million Ponzi fraud has been branded “a common criminal” and jailed for nine years.
Brighouse man John Hirst, who “beguiled and dazzled” retired and vulnerable investors with his scam on Majorca, should have been locked up for longer, the judge said.
His “junior partner”, chartered accountant Richard Pollett, described by Judge Jonathan Durham QC as “a greedy man prepared to ruin others” was imprisoned for six and a half years.
Hirst’s estranged wife Linda, who sat well apart from him in the dock at Bradford Crown Court , was locked up for two and a half years.
The judge said she enjoyed “a profligate, jet setting lifestyle” and was “literally showered with money” by her husband.
The fraud was dishonest from the start. It was a scheme for Hirst to get rich quick to feed his greed and desire for the high life.
“The veneer of respectability has been well and truly stripped from you. You are common criminals. You are brutal, callous and cruel. You are corrupt,” Judge Durham Hall told Hirst and Pollett.
Hirst, 61, of Millroyd Mill, Huddersfield Road, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud and money laundering.
Pollett, 70, of Poole, Dorset, was convicted of conspiracy to defraud.
Linda Hirst, 62, from Woking, Surrey, was found guilty of two money laundering allegations and one of evading a liability by deception.
Hirst was a convicted fraudster when he moved to Majorca to target British ex-pats.
He was jailed for two-and-a-half years in 1992 after he conned Yorkshire miners out of their redundancy money, using some of the cash to pay for helicopter trips to York races.
During the trial, the jury heard details of extravagant spending on a £100,000 wedding party for the Hirsts in Majorca following their Las Vegas wedding in 2006. They spent thousands of pounds on cruises, hotel stays, jewellery and their Majorcan villa.
Yesterday, Rachel Barnes, for the Crown, said: “Money was simply no object for the couple.”
Miss Barnes told the court the Ponzi fraud ripped off 120 small investors between 2001 and 2009.
They were promised high returns on money “safely invested” in US stocks and shares.
Many were elderly and trusting people who lost life savings and retirement nest eggs.
In excess of £10 million was invested in the scheme. Of that, £4 million was returned to investors by Hirst and £6 million was gone.
Charles Bott QC, John Hirst’s barrister, said he had been demonised as “a caricature of a smooth and deceptive fraudster”. He suffered from leukaemia and, since returning to the UK, had lived on state benefits in a modest rented home. His marriage was over and he had no money left.
For Pollett, it was said he did not start the fraud and was a caring and charitable man with a heart condition while Linda Hirst was a hard working woman of good character until she met Hirst.