Penniless lorry driver is jailed for trying to sell Ritz in £250m scam
THE fraudster who tried to sell the Ritz for £250 million in a "outrageous and elaborate scam" despite the fact that he never owned it was jailed for five years.
Conman Anthony Lee, 49, promised his victims a deal on the hotel and casino in London's Piccadilly which was "too good to be true" but the building was owned by the billionaire Barclay brothers.
Sentencing him yesterday, judge Stephen Robbins: "This scam can be compared to those fraudsters who tried to sell the Eiffel Tower, Buckingham Palace and London Bridge."
Former lorry driver and bankrupt Lee claimed he was pals of Sir David and Sir Frederick, who also own the Telegraph Newspaper Group, and was able to buy the Ritz for a bargain 200m despite the fact it was worth at least 600m. He then promised to sell it on immediately to businessman Terence Collins and his Dutch financial backer Marcel Boerkhoorn, who transferred 1m to speed up the deal.
But when the "great big lie" came to nothing and the cash was never returned Lee was reported to the police.
Of the million pounds, 350,000 has been recovered. Police believe the remainder was spent by Lee on holidays such as a cruise around the Med and a top of the range Range Rover Vogue for his partner.
In the first month after the transfer more than 90,000 was withdrawn from his account.
Judge Robbins told him: "You were found guilty by the jury of this outrageous and elaborate scam of purporting to sell the Ritz thereby obtaining from your victim who has himself had to indemnify a Dutch financier who stumped up the money.
"You were at the time an undischarged bankrupt and there seems little chance of Mr Collins being repaid."
Lee, from Goole, in East Yorkshire, was convicted earlier this month of one count of obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception.
His co-accused Patrick Dolan, 68, of Tottenham, north London and solicitor Conn Farrell, 57, of Aldershot, were acquitted of conspiracy to defraud after they told the jury they believed the money was for legitimate deals.
During his trial at Southwark Crown Court prosecutor Anuja Dhir, QC, said: "This was a simple, but well targeted and ambitious scam.
"What sets this transaction apart from most is that it was all based on a great big lie. The deal sounded too good to be true and was a complete fantasy.
"He found people – Terence Collins in particular – who were interested in the high stakes world of dealing in trophy property. In that competitive world of secretive multi-million pound deals some people are prepared to take risks which might seem breathtaking to most of us."
Lee was given credit for the 25 days he has already spent in custody.
Outside court DS Garry Ridler, who was given a judicial commendation for his work on the case, said: "I think it is a just sentence which reflects the seriousness of the crime.
"This man is a serious fraudster who has damaged the reputation of others. Some people think this is a victimless crime but it is not."
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Thursday 20 June 2013
Temperature: 12 C to 21 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: South east
Temperature: 11 C to 19 C
Wind Speed: 12 mph
Wind direction: West