Trio are sent to jail for extorting £12,500 in blackmail plot
Three Belfast men who admitted involvement in a £12,500 blackmail plot have been sentenced to a total of seven years.
William Barker (40), from Filbert Drive, was handed a three-and-a-half year sentence, while Christopher Notorantonio (41), from Avoca Close, was given two-and-a-half years.
However, John Clarke (37) walked free from Belfast Crown Court on time served.
His Honour Judge Kinney sentenced Clarke, from Ardglen Place, to a year – half in jail and half on supervised licence.
On being told he has already served six months on remand, the judge said Clarke was free to go.
The other two men will also serve half their sentences on licence.
Last month their trial was halted after Barker and Notorantonio pleaded guilty to blackmailing £12,500 from a businessman known only as 'Witness A' on dates between 15 and 24 September 2010.
Clarke pleaded guilty to assisting offenders.
Jailing the trio, Judge Kinney said while every extortion crime was different, a "common thread" was that perpetrators of this "ugly crime will usually seek out vulnerable people as their victims".
The trial had heard how Clarke and Barker went to Witness A's place of work and demanded that he hand over £8,500 as the pair knew he had been involved with a man who had been shot in the legs three days earlier.
However, a demand for a further £4,000 was issued at the time with the gang, which claimed to be from the IRA.