Victims lost their homes in £3.5million building society con

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A “COLD-HEARTED” conman who lived the high-life on cash taken from vulnerable investors in a £3.5m fraud has been jailed.

David Reid splashed out on fast cars, a boat, spent thousands on restaurants and hotels, took foreign ski holidays and funded his shooting hobby using money belonging to customers of the Washington Mortgage Company who had trusted him with their financial affairs.

Newcastle Crown Court heard more than 50 victims of the fraudster, who posed as a solicitor and former Olympic shooting competitor, have lost their homes and savings. A little boy with special needs lost out on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Disneyland.

Judge James Goss QC sentenced the 50-year-old to six years behind bars.

He had pleaded guilty to 22 charges of obtaining a money transfer by deception and one of participating in a fraudulent business at an earlier hearing.

The judge told him he “cruelly” deceived his victims with a “false veneer of professionalism and reassurances.”

Reid was described by one of his victims as a “very clever and affable” man who wore Saville Row suits and would impress potential investors with £10,000 parties at his home, where fairground rides and clay pigeon shooting would be available for guests.

Prosecutor David Dixon told the court: “He was a plausible conman for a period in excess of 10 years, obtaining funds from people who knew him, were referred to him and who had been to his business premises in the Galleries.”

The court heard Reid used forged documentation to convince his clients their money was invested safely in offshore accounts.

When his scam was uncovered by a client he duped in 2003, police were informed, yet no prosecution followed and he continued to trade.

The court heard many of his victims had considered themselves friends of the fraudster and found they had lost everything through listening to his advice.

Mr Dixon added: “The crown say it was particularly cold-hearted, he was callous in the way he offended. It was a clear case of greed.

“He spent £1,000 on dog bills, £11,500 on skiing holidays, £14,000 on restaurants and hotels, £6,000 on shooting and £55,000 to pay off credit cards.

“Over the years he has had the benefit of nice cars including Mercedes Benz, a Range Rover, Audi and at one stage had a boat.”

The court heard one widower lost £300,000 his late wife had left as an inheritance for her family’s future.

Trevor Lazario, 50, from County Durham turned to Reid, who had thought was a friend, to help with financial affairs when his wife Linda lost her battle with cancer.

As a result of taking the conman’s advice Mr Lazario, who has a child with Down’s syndrome, has been forced to put the family home on the market.

He said: “The defendant has stolen my family money, stolen my future and my children’s futures, as well as make a fool out of me and our friendship.

“He is nothing more than a common thief, preying on the sick and the vulnerable.”

Some payments were made from the accounts but a total loss of more than £1.6m remains outstanding and is unlikely to be recovered.

Jamie Adams, defending, said Reid has tried to kill himself twice and feels real shame and remorse for what he has done.