A fraudster whose victims included the Thirsk-based Yorkshire Gliding Club has been jailed for 12 months after he pocketed more than £17,000 and failed to deliver computer flight simulation equipment to customers in this country and abroad.
Bradford Crown Court was told that 38-year-old Mytholmroyd man Matthew Hardy had been a highly-respected member of the flight simulation community, but over a 14-month period he failed to supply expensive custom-built computer equipment to customers as far afield as Australia, the United States of America and Norway.
Prosecutor Heather Gilmore said Hardy, of Calder Terrace, operated under the name of FSX Genius and advertised flight simulation equipment on his Facebook page and via sites such as Gumtree.
Hardy, a former train driver who had no previous convictions, pleaded guilty to eight charges of fraud at a previous hearing and asked for a further 12 similar offences to be taken into consideration.
When customers contacted Hardy about their missing equipment he made numerous excuses and even pretended to be working for a bogus courier firm in order to put them off.
Following his arrest last year Hardy revealed that he had in fact been using the money transferred to him by customers to pay off his own debts.
Among Hardy’s 20 victims was the Yorkshire Gliding Club who contacted him for assistance in upgrading their flight simulator. Mrs Gilmore said Hardy visited the club and on his advice they decided to pay about £2000 for a custom-built system. Mrs Gilmore said numerous arrangements were made for the delivery of the equipment, but it was never delivered and the money was never refunded.
She told Recorder David Ake that the fraud had been sophisticated involving the use of a fake email account and Hardy pretending to be working for the fake courier company. The court heard that Hardy had received payments of over £17,000 as a result of the frauds.
Lawyer Michael Devlin, for Hardy, said his life had been devastated after his wife left him and moved to France with his children. Mr Devlin said Hardy suffered a nervous breakdown and lost his job as a train driver.
Recorder Ake was told that because of the pressures on him Hardy had started to use the money to pay off debts and things spiralled out of control.
Mr Devlin said his client had expressed remorse and hoped to regain his employment as a train driver to help to pay back his victims.
The judge was urged to consider suspending any prison sentence, but he said he would be failing in his public duty if he did not impose an immediate jail term.
“You advertised these flight simulator computer programmes and customers were attracted to those advertisements,” Recorder Ake told Hardy.
“You did not deliver yet you had taken the money.
“There were thus a large number of victims and a high value of money which you inappropriately obtained.”
Hardy will face another court hearing in May when he could be ordered to repay some of his victims under the Proceeds of Crime Act legislation.