A couple who conned an English farmer out of £1m after suggesting they were connected to terrorists have been jailed.
A judge heard how Travellers Dennis McGinley (30) and Bianca McGinley (25) defrauded terrified victims in out of £1.9m over three years.
The biggest loser was a farmer from York, not named in court, who was conned out of £1m, some of which went to buy luxury cars including a Lamborghini.
North Yorkshire Police said the victims had been involved in business deals with Travellers and Dennis McGinley then came along making demands, purporting to represent interests associated with a “three-lettered organisation” from Northern Ireland.
Detectives said those involved were terrified by Dennis McGinley. One father and son, who lost £850,000, did not even speak to each other about what was happening, believing the family would be under threat if they spoke.
Two companies were stripped of their assets and closed, police said, and victims were forced to travel around the UK making cash and banking payments at Dennis McGinley's direction.
The McGinleys admitted conspiracy to defraud between March 1, 2006 and March 18, 2009.
Dennis McGinley was sentenced to eight years in prison and his wife was jailed for three-and-a-half years.
The pair, who are of no fixed address but are from the Travelling community in Taunton, Somerset, were arrested following a joint investigation involving the North Yorkshire, Staffordshire and Avon & Somerset police forces.
They were arrested in March 2009 in Chelmsford, Essex. Sentencing the couple at Leeds Crown Court, Judge Rodney Grant said the con was “a carefully planned scheme ruthlessly carried out”.
Speaking after the case, Detective Inspector Adam Harland, who led the North Yorkshire Police investigation, said: “When we were first confronted with the scale of these blackmails it was hard for all those on the inquiry to understand how anyone could lose £1m and not make some effort to contact the police.
“However, the fear engendered in the victims by Dennis McGinley was so real that they handed over vast amounts of money, representing the benefit from a life's worth of work, rather than seek help.
“Each victim felt like an individual target, and the events had a profound effect on their health and sense of security.
“There may even have been a feeling that to reveal what had happened would make them appear foolish.”
Mr Harland said officers had not recovered most of the cash. He urged anyone else who feels they may have been victims to come forward. He said Dennis McGinley had been facing fraud allegations in Ireland when he was arrested.