A PROFESSIONAL fraudster who used a string of bogus identities to mastermind a £547,000 con that hit towns across the north including Hebden Bridge has been jailed for more than six years.
Former gambling addict John Duggan masqueraded as 12 different characters to run a series of ‘ghost’ building firms which targeted unsuspecting trade merchants and private customers.
The 46-year-old of Fairfax Crescent, Southowram, Halifax, headed a gang of conmen who obtained hundreds-of-thousands of pounds from credit accounts which were never repaid.
Before police caught up with Duggan, who was barred from being a company director at the time of the conspiracy, he had created a labyrinthine scam involving eight different firms and engineered one of West Yorkshire’s biggest ever frauds.
Last Friday he was sentenced at Bradford Crown Court to a total of six years and three months in jail after admitting nine charges of conspiracy to defraud, two charges of obtaining passports by deception and one charge of dangerous driving.
Recorder or Bradford Judge Stephen Gullick said: “You are, in my opinion, a professional fraudster.
“It is clear to me from the documents I have read that your difficulties hark back to an addiction to gambling. This seems to be one you have taken steps to overcome.
“You targeted building supplies companies and obtained goods and services you knew would never be paid for.”
Duggan was also disqualified from being a company director for 15 years. In addition he was banned from driving for three years for an incident in 2005, where he was involved in a four mile car chase with two police cars.
Three other men were also sentenced for their involvement in the fraud, which took place between February 2001 and February 2003.
Andrew Steward, 29, of Grove Crescent, Luddenden Foot, admitted four charges of conspiracy to defraud and Mark Odd, 32, of Ripon Terrace,Boothtown, Halifax, admitted five charges of conspiracy to defraud. They were each handed 200 hour community service orders, told to play 2,000 costs and disqualified from being company directors for two years.
The judge told them: “You have not been in any form of trouble before or afterwards and that has saved you from going to prison.”
Glynn McIntyre, 36, of St Helen’s Road, Bolton, admitted one charge of conspiracy to defraud and was ordered to carry out 80 hours of community service and play 1,000 costs.
The court heard how Duggan’s deceit began when he became involved with an initially legitimate company named MAG Drilling, based in Halifax.
Richard Newbury, prosecuting, said the company ran into financial difficulties in 2001 from which it never recovered, and from which point the fraud began.
“From that position the company began to open out lines of credit from other companies for no good reason,” he added.
The scam saw a new bogus company set up and abandoned approximately every three months, during which time the conspirators would apply for credit from building merchants, knowing security was lax and it would take months before accounts would be stopped.
Mr Newbury said Duggan would often legally change his name by deed poll using his own date of birth - however he twice obtained passports unlawfully using different birth dates.
His stock of revolving identities allowed him to head up new companies without detection, often defrauding the same merchant companies time and time again.
But he came close to being caught out after setting up a company named Paul Robinson Associates in the back office of a business in Crown Street, Hebden Bridge.
The court heard how an employee from another branch of the business had come to Hebden Bridge to cover for a colleague. She recognised Duggan as ‘John Duvall’, who had carried out work on her home, while other staff knew him as ‘Paul Robinson’.
Mr Newbury said: “Duggan must have realised he was rumbled. He vacated the offices with no trace.”
Duggan went on to help set up four other companies, one of which was a Leeds-based firm called Gas Zone that rolled out an entirely different scam, offering central heating installation at knock down prices.
A team of sales staff were employed and never paid, while customers were conned out of hundreds of pounds worth of deposit money for work which was never carried out.
“The sole purpose was to strip large sums of money from the general public,” said Mr Newbury.
Other individuals fell victim to the conmen during the course of the fraud, including one couple from Austwick, North Yorkshire, who handed over around 100,000. Duggan’s numerous identities and companies meant it took a complex police investigation to catch up with him, Mr Newbury added.
l Continued on page three