WATCH: Inverclyde Fraudster Couple JAILED After Longest Ever UK Trial

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Fraudster Edwin McLaren In Action

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A couple from Inverclyde involved in a large-scale property fraud have been jailed for a total of 13-and-a-half years after what was believed to have been the longest criminal trial in UK legal history.

Edwin McLaren, 52, orchestrated the £1.6 million property fraud scheme, which involved duping victims in financial difficulty to sign over their homes.

Prosecutors said he preyed on vulnerable people and arranged for the title deeds of their homes to be transferred to his associates without the victims' knowledge.

He was found guilty of 29 charges in May following a trial at the High Court in Glasgow which began in September 2015 and heard evidence over 320 days.

He was sentenced to 11 years in jail on Tuesday as many of his victims watched on from the public gallery.

His wife Lorraine McLaren, 51, was found guilty of two charges, involving a fraudulent mortgage application on their own home. She was sentenced to two-and-a-half years.

As a financial adviser, police said Edwin McLaren had the background knowledge to put together and execute the scheme.

Through adverts in the national press for companies advertising as property solutions or home sale solutions, he targeted people in financial distress as a result of family bereavement, debt or illness.

He would either offer to buy their house or lend them money to clear their debts and in return, he would get what he would say was a part-share ownership of their property.

But in fact, their properties were being transferred wholesale to the names of others, unknown to them, meaning they lost the title deeds to their homes.

This lady was one of them and spoke to Heart's Finlay Duncan after the sentencing:

Passing sentence, judge Lord Stewart said: "The evidence shows frankly breathtaking dishonesty in every aspect of your enterprise.

"The jury have found you an outright liar.''

During the scheme, Edwin McLaren is said to have enjoyed an extravagant lifestyle, with four cars, including a Bentley, and holidays in Dubai.

The judge said: "It appears your motivation was to secure funds from mortgage lenders to fund an affluent lifestyle.''

In mitigation, his defence lawyer Mark Moir said McLaren was a first time offender and that the length of the trial had contributed to mental health issues.

He said McLaren maintains his innocence.

In mitigation for Lorraine McLaren, her lawyer Kevin McCallum said her husband had a "controlling role in financial matters''.

He said there was no evidence she was involved in defrauding vulnerable people and described Edwin McLaren as the "driving force'' of the scheme.

Lord Stewart said the mortgage was financed by her husband's property fraud and the jury must have found she knew money transferred into her bank account came from the proceeds of crime.

He added: "Anything less than 30 months in custody would fail to reflect the criminality involved.''

Concerns were first raised by a woman who made a complaint to Fife Constabulary in 2012 because she had not been paid the full amount for her house in Cowdenbeath.

Police worked out there were further properties linked to the incident and Edwin McLaren was snared after an investigation involving up to 100 officers discovered a massive fraudulent scheme.

Deputy Crown Agent Lindsey Miller said: "McLaren's actions were conducted in such a covert way that it was an incredibly demanding investigation which took a considerable time to unpick the chain of events before that evidence could then be led in court.

"The prosecuting team were able to put in front of the jury compelling evidence and the story of a man who was calculated in his deception and showed no remorse for the victims of his deceit.''

The trial lasted so long as the court heard evidence for a number of days from each witness on topics such as conveyancing and accountancy.

Some witnesses were vulnerable and one woman was so ill that the court took evidence from her in her house via video link. Her living room was set up as a court, with a macer present to pass documents to her.

Only 12 jurors from the original 15 remained at the end of the case and at one stage there was a break of three weeks as one juror got married.

Concluding the trial, Lord Stewart - who postponed his retirement during proceedings - thanked everyone involved in such a "long and difficult case''.

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Detective Superintendent Andy Lawson said: "The result of today's lengthy court proceedings follows an extremely complex inquiry that is probably one of the largest, most complicated property fraud investigations ever carried out in Scotland.

"A team of officers has investigated cases involving a number of victims the length and breadth of the country, who have been left completely distraught, some penniless and homeless, who have been disadvantaged financially - and all at the hands of the McLarens.

"For over four years, detectives have worked tirelessly to unpick the network of banking transfers and legal documentation for 24 properties as part of this £1.7 million fraudulent conspiracy spanning a six-year period.

"McLaren orchestrated a series of scams including a 'sell and rent back' con, which involved duping vulnerable victims in financial difficulty to sign over their homes and subsequently by further deception, to trick them into transferring the proceeds of sale into an account controlled by Edwin McLaren.

"In some instances, he pretended to individuals that he would give them a loan to pay off their mortgage and other debts when in fact, he had arranged the sale of their property to an associate.

"He then continued to further deceive those victims by obtaining proceeds from the fraudulent sale from the victim. The fraud continued by using this cash as deposits for the next fraudulent transaction.''

He said that a team of specialist search officers, telecommunications and computer forensics experts, financial investigators and criminal analysts pored over "hundreds of thousands of documents'' to follow the trail and identify those behind the racket.

Mr Lawson added: "Undoubtedly, the shameless actions of Edwin McLaren, who had the ability to persuade and dupe innocent victims and professionals into agreeing to his dishonest scheme, has wreaked devastation on many people, whilst they continued to live a life of luxury.

"These are heartless individuals, driven by greed, who were ruthless financial predators, and who despite pleas for help from their victims, chose to disregard them as they focused on their financial gain.''

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BACKGROUND TO THE FRAUD CASE

The conviction of property fraudster Edwin McLaren and his wife has brought to a close what is believed to be the longest criminal trial in UK legal history.

Beginning in September 2015, the trial heard around 320 days of evidence at the High Court in Glasgow.

McLaren, 52, was found guilty of a scheme which involved him preying on vulnerable people and arranging for the title deeds of their homes to be transferred to his associates without the victims' knowledge.

He targeted people through adverts in the national press for companies advertising as property solutions or home sale solutions, his target market being vulnerable people in financial distress as a result of family bereavement, debt or illness.

These individuals would contact him and he would either offer to buy their house or lend them money to clear their debts.

In return, he would get what he would say was a part-share ownership of their property.

In fact, their properties were being transferred wholesale to the names of others, unknown to them, meaning they lost the title deeds to their homes.

McLaren would drip-feed them money, but the victims did not get the amount they were expecting.

Concerns were first raised by a woman who made a complaint to Fife Constabulary in 2012 because she had not been paid the full amount for her house in Cowdenbeath.

Police worked out that there were further properties linked to this incident, and the case was transferred to the Financial Investigation Unit at Paisley which found that a lot more were involved.

McLaren was snared after a police investigation involving up to 100 officers discovered a massive fraudulent scheme, with 29 properties appearing on the indictment.

As a financial adviser, McLaren had the background knowledge to put together and execute the scheme, which also involved his wife Lorraine McLaren, 51.

Despite the distress he caused, McLaren has apparently has shown no remorse and said that he was helping people.

He enjoyed an extravagant lifestyle, with four cars, including a Bentley, and holidays in Dubai.

After serving more than a year and a half of jury duty the jurors will now be able to get on with their lives.

Only 12 jurors were left from the original 15, as some were lost to illness.

The trial lasted so long as the court heard evidence for a number of days from each witness, some of whom were vulnerable, and there was also evidence from experts on topics such as conveyancing and accountancy.

Witness Shona Harrison (charge 39) was so ill that the court took evidence from her in her house, as she was too unwell even to go to the court nearest her at Newcastle and give evidence via video link.

She gave evidence via video link from her house. Her living room was set up as a court, with a macer present to pass documents to her.

The trial did not sit every day, while there were also breaks due to jurors being ill, and to give everyone a break and allow them to deal with other commitments.

At one stage there was a three-week break as one juror was getting married.

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