Convicted fraudster is put to test in promise to pay back victims

VICTIMS of a fraudster who ran a £600,000 dream homes scam have told of their disbelief after he turned up to be sentenced only to claim he could pay back the money.

Barry Leigh was due to be sentenced at Portsmouth Crown Court but vowed to pay back 61 pence in every pound to the victims if two lucrative land deals go ahead.

A judge has adjourned Leigh’s sentencing until June but warned the fraudster’s situation will be worse if he does not make amends.

Judge Roger Hetherington said: ‘For those victims who are present, and who will be informed about this decision, who take the view that it would be a waste of time, the fact that I’m granting this adjournment is no indication that I don’t share that view.

‘It’s simply to put the defendant to the test.

‘It won’t be enough for him to say “well I intended it but others have let me down” because that has been the story of his protestations throughout this case.’

As reported by The News last month, bogus businessman Leigh, 63, of Magennis Close, Gosport, admitted forgery, money laundering and a string of frauds through his firm Dream Coastal and Country Homes.

He laundered £620,145 in the frauds, which saw him offer land to victims, including carpenter Steve Ritchie, 46, and his disabled wife Lilian, 59.

They lost the cash and ended up living in laybys.

Speaking yesterday, Steve said: ‘I’m gutted, I wanted to see him go down.

‘He knows it. He needs taking off the streets. We’ll now wait and see whether we’re going to get this.

‘I don’t think so because this all happened time and time again, broken promises of “you’re going to get your money back” and I don’t see it happening now.’

Ken Peake, 59, and his wife Sandra, 54, from North Devon, said they lost £87,500.

‘I know he’s not going to get the money, he’s going to make it worse for him,’ said Ken.

The court heard two land deals were in progress with emails received ‘overnight’ and a meeting scheduled for Friday.

Outside court, Leigh told victims: ‘It’s up to you whether you want your money.’

Before adjourning, the judge said: ‘My initial reaction is this is precisely that same sort of exercise which led three or four years ago to defrauding all of the people. That also generated endless documents, promises, so-called assurances apparently verified by bona fide professionals.

‘They were not worth the paper they were written on and I strongly suspect that this is in the same tradition.’

Leigh previously admitted fraudulently trading between August 7, 2013 and July 26, 2014, three charges of fraud by false representations to three victims, forgery of a bank account to show he had £980,121.35, and use of a false instrument – the statement – to try and fool Humberts Estates Agents. He also admitted laundering £620,145.

He pleaded guilty on the basis the firm did not start as fraud and that he could pay.