£250m Ritz sale conman warned of prison term

A PENNILESS conman from Yorkshire is facing jail for an audacious scam to sell the Ritz Hotel in London for a cut-price £250m.

Jobless lorry driver Anthony Lee was warned yesterday he faced a

substantial prison term after he was found guilty of conning his

Sign up to our daily newsletter

victims out of 1m in the fraud.

Southwark Crown Court in London heard that Lee had selected his target carefully, finding victims who were interested in the high-stakes world of trophy properties and sucking them in with false promises until they handed over the cash.

Remanding him in custody until July 27, Judge Stephen Robbins said the 49-year-old faced an "immediate and quite substantial custodial sentence".

Lee was at the heart of a con based on "one great big lie" – convincing potential buyer Terence Collins that he was a close friend and associate of the reclusive billionaire Barclay brothers, owners of the prestigious hotel in Piccadilly.

But Sir Frederick and Sir David Barclay had never met or even heard of Lee and were completely unaware he was claiming to be able to sell their landmark building.

Lee, of Broad Lane, Beal, in Goole, East Yorkshire, was convicted of obtaining the 1m payment by deception after more than 14 hours of jury deliberations.

But he was cleared of conspiracy to defraud between January 1, 2006, and March 30, 2007.

One of Lee's friends, Patrick Dolan, 68, of Philip Lane, Tottenham, north London, was also cleared of the conspiracy charge.

The pair's solicitor Conn Farrell, 57, of Cambridge Road, Aldershot, Hampshire – who was accused of lending a "veneer of legitimacy" to the scam – was cleared of the conspiracy charge on Thursday after he told the jury he was simply acting on his clients' instructions.