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Surveyor and ex-policeman sentenced after massive mortgage fraud

A former police officer, a surveyor and a solicitor are among five people who have been sentenced for a total of 21 years for their parts in a ‘breathtaking’ fraud – the UK’s biggest mortgage scam to date.

All five had denied fraud but were found guilty following a four-month trial ending in June, during which the jury had to consider 50,000 items of evidence relating to 189 mortgage applications.

Antony Lowry-Huws, 65, from Kinmel Bay, north Wales, was jailed for seven years. The former policeman was said to be the ringleader in the £50m fraud that involved more than 1,000 bogus mortgage applications.

His wife Susan Margaret Lowry-Huws, 60, was given 12 months suspended for two years and 300 hours of community service. His business partner Sheila Rose Whalley, from Llanfair Talhaiarn, north Wales, was jailed for six years.

Solicitor Nicholas John Jones, 54, from Leeswood, Flintshire, and surveyor Frank Edward Darlington, 62, from Barnoldswick, Lancashire, were each given four years.

Both Whalley and Antony Lowry-Huws were banned from being company directors for ten years.

Elspeth Pringle, specialist fraud prosecutor at the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “The scale, duration and sophistication of this fraudulent scheme are a demonstration of criminal behaviour at its most devious.

“The actions of the five members of this mortgage fraud ring were motivated by nothing more than greed, and their willingness to betray the trust of mortgage lenders for personal profit seemed to have no limits.

“Each of the co-conspirators had their own specific role to play in this intricate crime, and all were fully aware of the deceitfulness of their actions.”

The scheme involved mortgages against non-existent properties, inflated property valuations and fraudulent paperwork.

Each of the five defendants was convicted of one count of conspiracy to defraud in relation to 189 fraudulent mortgage applications made between May 2003 and June 2008. The figure was said to be a representative sample of the total number of bogus applications made.

The police mounted an investigation called Operation Valgus which has so far run for five years, and after the sentencing hearing Det Chief Insp Iestyn Davies said: “Further individuals will face trial later this year in connection with the same investigation.”

In an entirely separate case, the death of a conveyancing solicitor found stabbed while out jogging is being investigated by police in the north-east.

Peter Maine, from Wynyard, Stockton-on-Tees, had been caught up in what could easily overtake the Wales case as the UK’s biggest ever property scandal. He also faced an investigation into his conduct as a lawyer.

He previously worked for Hall & Co solicitors, since closed down, which was part of a long-running investigation by police into an alleged £170m sale and rent-back fraud involving Gateshead firms North East Property Buyers and Newcastle Home Loans.

Maine was well known by estate agents in north Durham, some of whom have paid tribute.

One, Stuart Edwards, of Stuart Edwards Estate Agents, said he was the nicest man and that his friend’s death must have been an act of random violence. He emphasised: “I know he was being investigated but there is a difference between being investigated and being found guilty.”

A provisional trial date has been set for March at Teeside Crown Court. The eight suspects so far charged include Grace and David Purdie, directors of North East Property Buyers. It is thought that some 2,000 properties were in the firm’s portfolio.

Maine’s name was not among the eight.

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