A Blackpool conman used a string of false identities to cheat racing punters out of more than £200,000 through scams including gambling syndicates and shares in racehorses.
Crooked Christopher Beek, who made some payments to keep his victims hooked, even posed as a private detective supposedly to help them get their money back – for a fee.
But his final deception, claiming he could raise the money to repay the losers, was exposed as just another lie after Warwick Crown Court heard he was penniless.
Beek, 36, of BurlingtonRoad, South Shore, was jailed for five years and 10 months after he had pleaded guilty to charges of defrauding four people over a three-year period.
Judge Andrew Lockhart QC said he had conned his victims out of around £204,000 – and, after they had received some returns to keep them hooked, there was £164,000 outstanding.
Prosecutor Graham Russell said Beek’s first victim was an off-shore oil rig worker, who was offered membership to a gambling system in December 2011, with a supposedly guaranteed return.
Taken in by Beek’s patter, he invested £3,400 followed by a further £1,500 and then another £800.
He received a return of £1,200 at the end of the six months, but was fobbed off with a succession of excuses when he began chasing the rest of his money.
And to trick him into parting with even more cash, Beek invented someone called Charles Symonds who was supposedly a sports betting expert – and the oil rig worker paid out another £2,000 which went into Beek’s Kachina Racing account.
That victim eventually began to suspect that Symonds was Beek who, in his own name through the Kachina Racing address, continued making excuses for the lack of payments.
Not content with fleecing him through the betting scam, using other false personas Beek tricked him into investing £3,000 in fine wines from France and another £3,000 to deal in non-existent computer systems.
The biggest loser was a farmer who was taken in by what Judge Lockhart described as ‘a bewildering cast of fictitious persons,’ and ended up losing a staggering £129,000.
Drawn in through a Kachina Racing flyer, the farmer was persuaded to hand over an initial £15,000 for a betting investment club with supposedly guaranteed profits.
Beek, using other identities, also conned the farmer into investing large sums of money in systems using automated betting programs, including one called Sidebot, sending out regular fake performance emails.
He then killed off the person supposedly behind that scheme, and created a man called Michael Taylor who offered to help the farmer recover his money – for a fee.
And he then became ‘successful gambler’ Phil Clark, with whom the farmer was tricked into investing more money.
It was only after paying into other scam betting schemes that the farmer spoke to tipster ‘Alan Nugent,’ with whom he had invested £10,000, and recognised the voice as that of Beek - who made threats of IRA links to try to stop him going to the police.
Another victim, a company director, had fallen prey to an email supposedly from Scott King of Sporting Pro offering tips on horses at the Cheltenham Festival.
The director paid more than £1,900 for bets which should have brought in £6,250 in winnings – but did not receive any of it.
Later Beek resurfaced using his own name and that of Kachina Racing to supposedly help him get his money, subject to him paying a subscription fee.
He was then conned into investing in a football betting concern supposedly run by ‘Eddie Edge,’ and in another scheme.
Then using the guise of Spectral Racing, Beek sold him a 50 per cent share in a horse called Geographical, promising him 40 per cent of any winnings and of the eventual sale price – and he was later told it had been sold and that he was due £6,000, which he never received.
The whole thing had been a pretence, because although Geographical and another horse in which he bought a share, Royal Flag, did exist, Brightwells horse sales, who believed they were dealing with Spectral Racing, retrieved both horses after receiving only £1,800 of the agreed £64,000 price.
In 2015 a Warwickshire businessman who had lent a woman more than £500,000 was ‘introduced’ by Beek to a supposed private detective called Shane McGivern, who would help recover the debt.
Mr Russell said that in that guise, Beek tricked the businessman into paying fees totalling around £50,000.
Simon Worlock, defending, said: “He has written a letter in the fond hope that Your Honour may say a suspended sentence might be merited, although I have a feeling Your Honour will say it’s not merited.
“This happened over three years ago, and it was all over by 2015. He had not come to terms with this until relatively recently. Part of his prevarication is his inability to come to terms with the seriousness of what he’s done.”
Mr Worlock said that after leaving school Beek had worked as a stable boy for ex-footballer and racehorse trainer Mick Channon, but an injury dashed his hope of becoming a jockey, and he instead set up as a trainer.
“He lost the yard in 2013. He had 20 horses, and he sold them for a pittance and tried to live on his wits providing racing tips, but he got completely overwhelmed with what he was doing and then he starts to lie.
“It’s telling lie upon lie to cover up lie upon lie. He’s not a man who set out from the start to commit fraud, but someone who drifted into it and then could not find a way out.”
Jailing Beek, Judge Lockhart told him: “You find yourself here is respect of serious criminality.
“The schemes were broadly fictitious. You lost money, and you simply asked for more. It was a three-year sophisticated fraud. The web of lies has been hard to unravel.
“There was a bewildering cast of fictitious persons, betting systems, internet accounts, and then using your own name and six other names, you wove a web of deception.”