A former contestant in Lord Sugar's hit TV show The Apprentice was given a suspended sentence for fraud yesterday.
Mortgage broker Christopher Farrell attempted to dupe lenders by falsifying customers' applications so they were more likely to be loaned money.
The former Royal Marine, who appeared in the most recent series of the BBC1 show, inflated applicants' salaries and forged documents to clinch them a mortgage – and in turn increase his chances of reaching his sales bonus.
Farrell, 29, was arrested last August, but tried to blame his colleagues for forging the documents.
However, he quickly admitted his guilt and pleaded guilty to four counts of fraud by false representation before magistrates in Plymouth last month. He asked for three further charges to be taken into consideration.
Appearing at Plymouth Crown Court, Farrell was given a nine month prison sentence, suspended for two years, and 200 hours' community service.
Farrell, of Arrowe Park Road, Upton, Wirral, Merseyside, worked as a mortgage and insurance adviser with the company, Mortgages for Plymouth, between November 2007 and August 2009.
He then went on to take part in The Apprentice, where he was fired by Lord Sugar in week eight of the show.
The former broker, who earned 1,600 a month, would earn commission of between 300 and 400 if he made sales of more than 5,000 a month.
Under pressure to support his wife and young child, he admitted altering P60 forms, payslips and creating fake documents to ensure their mortgage applications were successful – thereby hitting his monthly target.
His arrest emerged on the eve of the start of the last series of the show when it was also revealed he had two previous convictions for possessing an offensive weapon.
The hearing was told that, since his last court appearance, Farrell had separated from his wife.
Prosecutor David Gittins told the court: "Christopher Farrell started working as a mortgage and insurance adviser at Mortgages4Plymouth in November 2007 and worked there until he was fired in August 2009.
"On top of his standard salary he received a bonus if he exceeded his 5,000 monthly target.
"It was not until July 2008 that he began to exceed that target.
"After that he took part in The Apprentice programme.
"The Crown's case is that Mr Farrell obtained mortgages for clients fraudulently by falsifying their incomes, although it is important to note that he did so without their knowledge, to ensure lenders granted mortgages and thus ensuring he reached his monthly target."
Desperate to earn more money to support his family, Farrell started inflating the incomes of clients to ensure their mortgage applications were successful – thereby hitting his monthly sales target.
Farrell would either alter P60 forms or payslips to show his clients in a more favourable light to a mortgage lender, or create fake documents.
The court heard that Farrell made three mortgage applications and one re-mortgage application on behalf of his clients – totalling 750,000.
After Farrell was arrested he first tried to blame his colleagues but quickly admitted his guilt and pleaded guilty in court at the first opportunity.
The prosecutor said there was no actual loss to the mortgage lenders and Farrell's clients were continuing to meet their monthly repayments.
Malcolm Clarke, defending, said Farrell had a distinguished 10-year career in the Royal Marines, completing tours in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Sierra Leone and Northern Ireland.
After The Apprentice, Farrell now works freelance for a company supplying security services overseas to the shipping industry.
He was often away on contracts for a month at a time but has not worked since September because of the criminal proceedings.
He will now start a new job on Monday when he flies out to Sri Lanka to protect ships from pirates.
Judge Francis Gilbert QC told a smartly-dressed Farrell: "I give you full credit to pleading guilty and I take into account what your counsel has said and the contents of the pre-sentence report."
Conviction for weapons
Farrell's arrest for fraud emerged on the eve of the start of the latest series of The Apprentice, when it was also revealed that he has a weapons conviction.
He appeared before Plymouth Crown Court in September 2009 to admit the two charges.
Police found an extendable baton and a knuckleduster in his Mercedes after being called to his home following allegations that he had hit his wife with the knuckleduster.
He was given a two-year conditional discharge but was made to pay 847 costs. His wife did not press charges.