A gang of Irish conmen are facing long jail sentences after they admitted swindling farmers in Devon, Cornwall and Wales out of hundreds of thousands of pounds.
One member of the gang has already been jailed for fleecing two brothers who run a sheep farm in Wales out of £37,000, and three others await sentencing.
They include 57-year-old gang leader Dennis McGinley, who has been jailed before for fraud, and has now admitted to further conspiracies totalling more than £500,000, involving multiple victims.
His sentence has been adjourned pending a fact-finding hearing in January, in which some of the victims will give evidence.
The only member of the gang to be sentenced so far is Jimmy Connors, 44, of Pentregal, Llandyssul, Carmarthenshire, who admitted two counts of conspiracy to defraud the two brothers and another man in Wales.
He was jailed for 20 months by Judge Peter Johnson at Exeter Crown Court on Wednesday (21 August).
He had run a legitimate business importing machinery from Ireland and selling to farms in west Wales. He used his contacts to target the two brothers and a retired farmer in a scam which the judge branded as “thoroughly dishonest”.
In November last year he told his victims that a lorry containing a new quad bike and other kit had been impounded on its way from Ireland by customs at Pembroke Docks for supposedly running on red diesel.
He told them he needed cash to get it released and then got friends to con them out of even more money by saying he had been arrested and needed to be bailed.
Brothers Peter and Stephen Weeks, who run a sheep farm at Boncath, west Wales, were left with almost no savings and struggling to buy fertiliser and other essential supplies after handing over £37,000.
Retired farmer Spencer Edwards was also swindled out of £4,000 by the same scam, but asked for advice from his bank when the gang asked for more money, resulting in the police being alerted.
After he was arrested at the ferry port of Heysham, Lancashire, Mr Connors told police he needed the money to pay for his sister’s wedding back in Ireland.
At the subsequent court hearing in Exeter this week, his cousin, Luke Connors, 30, of County Wexford; John Maughan, 56; and Dennis McGinley, 57, all admitted to other conspiracies to defraud.
The judge told Mr Connors: “Peter and Stephen Weeks had done business with you and your parents for 30 years and trusted you as a friend. They have a modest sheep farm which was viable and they were keeping their heads above water.
“You were an essential part of the conspiracy because you were trusted by them and were able to get your foot in the door and spin the yarn about the lorry.
“You knew this was a thoroughly dishonest enterprise from the outset.”
The other members of the gang went on to target others in Devon and Cornwall, who paid much larger sums. They will be sentenced in January next year.