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Property Fraud Couple Jailed After UK’s Longest Criminal Trial

Property Fraud Couple Jailed After UK’s Longest Criminal Trial

Property fraud case and how to protect yourself

A husband and wife have been jailed after a con which saw vulnerable people sign over ownership of their homes.

Edwin McLaren and Lorraine McLaren were convicted for large-scale property fraud following what is believed to be the longest criminal trial in UK legal history.

The trial is estimated to have cost around £7.5m, with more than £2.4m in legal aid paid for defence lawyers.

It began at the High Court in Glasgow in September 2015 and heard evidence over 320 days. Over the course of the trial, the court had to suspend proceedings for three weeks when one juror got married, while others were unable to attend because of illness or else took holidays.

The case was described by police as “one of the largest, most complicated property fraud investigations ever carried out in Scotland.”

Massive investigation involving 100 officers

Edwin McLaren, who was said to be the mastermind behind the scam, was sentenced to 11 years after being found guilty of persuading vulnerable victims to sign over their homes as part of the £1.7m property fraud scheme.

His wife Lorraine was sentenced to two-and-a-half years on being found guilty of two charges, involving a fraudulent mortgage application on their own home.

The pair were caught after a police investigation involving up to 100 officers discovered the massive scheme.

The frauds occurred between April 2008 and November 2012 and came to light when a woman claimed she had not been paid the full amount that she was promised for the sale of her house.

Fraudsters preyed on vulnerable people

McLaren, often using a false name, would tell his victims – who were often in financial distress as a result of family bereavement, debt or illness – that he could resolve their financial problems, usually in the form of a loan or leaseback agreement.

He placed adverts in the national press for companies advertising as property solutions or home sale solutions which attracted the attention of vulnerable individuals. In return for offering assistance he would receive what he claimed was a part-share ownership of their property.

His victims believed they were releasing equity from their homes but in fact their properties were being transferred wholesale into the names of others unknown to them, meaning they lost the title deeds. The victims were usually completely unaware they had signed away their properties, said police.

Police said Edwin McLaren’s experience as a financial adviser meant he had the necessary background knowledge to put together and execute the scheme.

Sentencing the pair, Judge Lord Stewart said:

“Vulnerable individuals were taken advantage of. The evidence showed breath-taking dishonesty in every aspect of your enterprise by you and those acting on your instructions . . . The jury found you to be an outright liar.”

Detective Superintendent Andy Lawson said: “For over four years, detectives have worked tirelessly to unpick the network of banking transfers and legal documentation for 24 properties as part of this £1.7m fraudulent conspiracy spanning a six-year period.”

He said that a team of specialist search officers, telecommunications and computer forensics experts, financial investigators and criminal analysts examined “hundreds of thousands of documents” to follow McLaren’s trail.

Witness gave evidence from home

The trial marked the first time in Scotland that evidence was heard from the house of a witness who was too ill to attend proceedings in court. The house of the witness was set up as a court with all the legal trappings needed for evidence to be given.

Meanwhile, in another unusual step, Judge Lord Stewart used a computer slideshow presentation to sum up the case for the jury.

Contact our legal experts today

We have one of the leading teams of criminal specialists in West London and the South East. If you are facing a serious criminal charge, you can contact a member of the IBB’s Criminal Defence team, call us on 03456 381381 or email enquiries@ibblaw.co.uk.

IBB’s team of property solicitors can advise on all aspects of buying, selling and mortgaging property. If you would like further information on protecting your property from fraud or for any other conveyancing enquiry please contact Gary Bunce on 01494 790071 or email conveyancing@ibblaw.co.uk .

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