Man is jailed for pounds 730k scam.
A FATHER-of-two has been jailed after trying to collect pounds 730,000 of gold bullion for a criminal gang to clear his drug debts.
James Rea, 45, walked into a precious metal merchants in London with a forged driving licence and utility bill in the name of Ian Marshall.
But cops were waiting for the dad-oftwo, from Northfield, Birmingham, because the gold had been bought with stolen money.
The unemployed builder was arrested moments after he tried to pick up the stash.
Now Rea has been jailed for 18 months after admitting fraud, possession of articles for use in fraud, having false identity documents and attempting to convert criminal property.
At his trial at the Old Bailey last week, the jury heard he had agreed to the criminal errand to clear a pounds 5,000 drug debt. When arrested, Rea had told officers: "I am here because of threats. I owe people money. I thought if I did this it would all be over."
Rea was collected from his Birmingham home on April 8 this year and driven to London. A week earlier he agreed to take part in the scam for his cocaine dealer and was told to dress smartly and carry a briefcase.
Rea supplied a passport photo which was used to create the counterfeit driving licence.
The fake documents were then given to him on the way to London, before he took a cab to the merchants - Baird and Co - where he would collect 25.2 grams of gold.
Scam Prosecutor Lisa Matthews said the bullion had been bought with pounds 732,000 of cash diverted to a fraudulent account from Oldham Sixth Form College, Greater Manchester.
Staff had believed they were paying for a large-scale building project. But they had fallen foul of a scam after they received a letter instructing the money be directed to a new bank account. Cops were alerted and were able to follow a paper trail which led to the bullion - and they were lying in wait for Rea.
"There was as an element of pressure,'' said James Lachkovic defending.
"He was recruited at a late stage to carry out the most dangerous aspect of the fraud."
Rea is engaged to his long-term partner and also has three step-children, the eldest of whom is currently fighting in Afghanistan.
"He feels like he has let his family and friends down by behaving the way that he did," added Mr Lachkovic.
Jailing Rea, Judge Roger Chapple QC said: "All of this was prompted by an outstanding debt to your drug dealer. I accept substantial pressure was brought to bare on you, including physical violence.
"But as you readily appreciate that cannot absolve you from criminal responsibility for your actions.
"It was because of your voluntary and criminal use of cocaine that debt had built up and then you became an easy target.
"It can properly be said you were far from the brains of this fraud.
"ather you were a footsoldier at the bottom end of things. Of course frauds like this cannot be carried out unless there are footsoldiers like you."
CAUGHT: James Rea was arrested after trying to collect gold bullion from Baird and Co in London.
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|Publication:||Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)|
|Date:||Jul 17, 2011|
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