A blackmail gang who threatened to put a bullet in a wealthy farmer’s head and forced him to pay out almost £200,000 in just 17 days have been jailed.
Police investigating brothers Dennis and Bernard McGinley and co-accused Christy Stokes discovered CCTV footage of Dennis’s wife Bianca laden with designer label shopping bags after a trip to Harrods with some of the proceeds.
Judge Simon Bourne-Arton, sitting at Teesside Crown Court, told the men: “Such was your greed, such was your complete disregard for the effect upon this family, that no sooner had one payment been made that another demand was made, so money was handed over the same day or following days.”
The court heard the Richmondshire farmer, who cannot be identified, lived in “abject fear”, believed the lives of him and his family were under threat and so made a series of nine cash payments at drop-offs up and down the country last August and September.
He borrowed money from friends and family and even sold his tractor to be able to meet the gang’s continuing demands.
Leader Dennis McGinley, 40, from Little Denice, Fivehead, Taunton, Somerset, was jailed for seven years and four months after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit blackmail and a transferring criminal property offence.
They deliberately targeted the farmer and subjected him to a terrifying ordeal for nearly three weeks.Detective Inspector Mark Pearson
He was on licence having been jailed in 2009 for eight years for a blackmail offence in which a businessman had almost £800,000 distorted. Police were alerted to that offence by the Lamborghini he drove at the time.
His brother Bernard, 35, from the same address, was jailed for four-and-a-half years for the North Yorkshire offences.
Co-accused horse dealer Christy Stokes, 44, from Micheldever, Hampshire, admitted conspiracy to blackmail and was jailed for three years and nine months.
Bianca McGinley previously received a six-month suspended sentence after she admitted possesion of criminal property.
Detective Inspector Mark Pearson, of North Yorkshire Police’s Major Crime Unit, said: “The blackmail conspiracy committed by the McGinleys and Christy Stokes was menacing and callous in the extreme.
“They deliberately targeted the farmer and subjected him to a terrifying ordeal for nearly three weeks. He was in a desperate state when he reported the matter to the police and genuinely feared for his own life and the safety of his family.
“I hope the outcome of the investigation, along with the significant prison sentences handed to the defendants at court, will help to provide some comfort and closure from what has been a terrifying ordeal at the hands of this despicable criminal gang.”
Mr Pearson added: “The defendants travelled all over the country to commit this crime and it may be that there are more victims from the farming community around the UK who have, so far, been too afraid to come forward to the police.
“I hope news of the imprisonment of the McGinleys and Stokes will give any other potential victims the confidence to report their own dealings with this group. Please don’t be afraid to contact the police who will provide all the necessary support to victims to help secure justice and use all available powers to retrieve stolen funds and property.”