£1million Mansfield phony-firm conman fails in bid to cut jail time

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A Mansfield fraudster who was part of a gang which cheated suppliers out of more than £5million using sham companies must accept his tough jail term, top judges have ruled.

Simon Ludgate, 47, along with Calvin Harris, 51, conned almost £1.3million worth of goods from the unwary suppliers, using two bogus building firms while they were both banned from acting as company directors.

Ludgate, of Burlington Drive, Mansfield, was caged for three years and three months at Southwark Crown Court in May after he admitted fraudulent trading and acting as a company director while disqualified.

Harris, of Regency Gardens, Grantham, was jailed for two years and eight months after he pleaded guilty to fraudulent trading and acting as a company director while an undischarged bankrupt.

Today, three senior judges at London’s Appeal Court rejected the pair’s sentence challenges, saying their punishments were “not excessive in any way”.

Mr Justice Openshaw said the men were part of a so-called “long-firm fraud”, in which apparently legitimate businesses were used to cheat suppliers into handing over goods on credit.

The dodgy firms were then run out of business and the goods they’d fraudulently obtained sold on, leaving their suppliers out of pocket and some on the verge of ruin.

The pair were part of a raft of cons, worth more than £5million, which were overseen by Nottingham mastermind, Demitris Bains, 51, of South Parade, who was jailed for four years and nine months after he admitted conspiracy to defraud.

Ludgate had previously been disqualified from acting as a company director for 12 years when he took up a post at one of the phony firms, which cheated suppliers out of more than £1 million worth of goods.

On appeal, the pair’s lawyers argued they were harshly treated in comparison with three of their co-accused and that the judge overstated the level of their involvement.

But Mr Justice Openshaw, sitting with Sir Brian Leveson and Mr Justice Dove, said: “The judge heard the trial against the three co-defendants and was well-placed to assess the criminality of all the defendants.

“His sentencing remarks are, we observe, well-structured and give a clear overview of the participation of each defendant, including the two applicants.

“He carefully analysed the participation of each; he applied the guidelines for fraud; he set the right starting points and passed sentences well within the range for this scale of offending.

“These sentences are not in any way excessive in themselves.”

He said the judge was also right to distinguish between Ludgate and Harris and their co-accused, who had pleaded guilty far earlier and therefore deserved a greater discount.

“Accordingly, the renewed applications for permission to appeal against sentence are refused,” the appeal judge concluded.