TWO men were recruited into a £20,000 credit scam by a serial fraudster who is still on the run.
Michael Strong, aka Clark, and Michael Wilson were persuaded to open accounts with building firm Howdens Joinery Supplies Ltd at their office in Leechmere, Sunderland.
Fraudsters then used the accounts to purchase property on credit from the company’s outlets in Hartlepool and as far as the south of England – which was never repaid.
Prosecutors accept Strong and Wilson had acted under the instructions of a convicted con man, who helped mastermind the scam and is still being hunted by police.
More than £6,000 was spent on the account opened by Strong and more than £14,000 on the account opened by Wilson, though prosecutors accept neither of them did the actual spending.
Strong, 25, of High Elms, South Hylton, and Wilson, 20, formerly of Australia Tower, and now of Arthur Street, in Whitburn, both admitted conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation.
Strong, who has previous convictions, was jailed for 16 months and Wilson, who is less heavily convicted, was sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment, suspended for two years, with 200 hours’ unpaid work and a 7pm to 6am curfew for four months.
Judge Roger Thorn QC told them: “You both knew exactly what the risks were in lending your good names in setting up these bogus enterprises.
“The seriousness of this offending is in this day and age builders are facing a significantly difficult time.
“The building trade relies essentially on credit. Builders need to be able to obtain credit to have in advance materials which they will not be paid for until their work is completed.
“Builders need to be able to trust people to give credit to enable the building trade to if not prosper certainly to succeed.”
Christopher Rose, defending, told the court: “They were simply stooges of a very much more sophisticated fraudster.”