A conman who sold fake bomb detectors to Iraq was jailed for ten years today after a judge said he had blood on hands.
James McCormick, 57, showed no reaction as he was told his “callous confidence trick” was the worst fraud imaginable.
At the Old Bailey Judge Richard Hone told him: “I am wholly satisfied that your fraudulent conduct in selling so many useless devices for simply enormous profit promoted a false sense of security and in all probability materially contributed to causing death and injury to innocent individuals.”
He jailed McCormick, who was thought to have made £50 million from selling three models based on a novelty £13 golf ball finder to Iraq and other countries.
McCormick, of Langport, Somerset, was found guilty of three offences of fraud last week.
The prosecution said there was no scientific basis to the detectors and they were nothing more than a con.
Judge Hone told McCormick: “What you perpetrated was a callous confidence trick.
“The device was useless, the profit outrageous and your culpability as a fraudster has to be placed in the highest category.
“Your profits were obscene. You have neither insight, shame or any sense of remorse.”
The judge said McCormick has shown a “cavalier disregard of the potentially fatal consequences” of his con.
McCormick, who until the end continued to maintain the detectors worked, will face a confiscation hearing.
He is believed to have sold 6,000 of his fake detectors to Iraq and 1,000 to other police and military forces including United Nations peacekeepers in Lebanon.
Richard Whittam QC, prosecuting, told the judge that former senior British officers in Iraq believed the fakes had cost lives.
Brigadier Simon Marriner said in a statement: “The inescapable conclusion is that devices have been detonated after passing through checkpoints.
“Iraqi civilians have died as a result.”
Jonathan Laidlaw QC, for McCormick, said other devices had also been used at checkpoints and there was no proof that his client’s had cost lives.
The trial heard some of the detectors were sold for £27,000 each and claims were made that they could find explosives, drugs, fluids, ivory and people.
They claimed items could be detected up to 0.6 miles (1km) underground, up to three miles (5km) from the air and 100ft (31m) underwater, it was said.
After his arrest, McCormick said: “It’s a phenomenon.”
McCormick, a former policeman and salesman, told the court he sold his detectors to police in Kenya, the prison service in Hong Kong, the army in Egypt and border control in Thailand.
He said one of them had been used to check a hotel in Romania before the visit of an American president in the 90s.
He said: “I never had any negative results from customers.”
Speaking outside court, detective superintendent Nigel Rock of Avon and Somerset Police said: “James McCormick is a conman. He will continue to be a conman. A man who’s made millions of dollars is now convicted.”