By Nick Bull
Julian Clark, the man behind the ill-fated Linda McCartney team, was jailed for three-and-a-half years on Friday after pleading guilty to defrauding 19 separate victims in Kent.
Maidstone Crown Court heard how Clark, 45, managed to obtain more than £700,000 over a three year period between November 2006 and December 2009.
He was charged with 21 counts of fraud and two counts of obtaining money by deception. Two counts of obtaining money by deception were ordered to lie on file.
Clark has previously been sentenced to six months in prison ten years ago for a series of similar fraud offences.
Neither jail term is directly linked to the demise of the Linda McCartney team in early 2001.
Although he lived in Leatherhead, Surrey, the majority of Clark's victims were Kent-based friends, colleagues and family members. The court was told that he managed to borrow the money by claiming that he could either purchase bankrupt gym equipment, high-value Land Rovers or export motocross bikes to Belgium and Holland, in order to sell them on at a profit.
He offered interest on the money borrowed and promised a quick turnaround, but the repayments never happened. Instead he used the money to provide an income and pay back outstanding loans.
It was noted that Clark had managed to pay back just over £400,000 of the £737,000 he had managed to defraud.
In sentencing, the judge credited Clark for pleading guilty at the first opportunity.
However, he said that while his there was some genuine business dealing, this developed into fraud and dishonest behaviour very quickly.
DC Steve Payne, from Kent Police's commercial crime team, said: "This was a long and complex case and I am pleased that this serial conman has finally been brought to bear for his crimes.
"He targeted his closest friends and family, in some cases taking their life savings, which will have an impact on them for years to come. I hope that this sentence gives them some sense of closure."
Excepts from the February 3 2001 issue of Cycling Weekly. By Lionel Birnie
Death of a team
The 2001 jersey - complete with Jaguar logos
When Linda McCartney-Jacob's Creek - Britain's only Continental-based pro team at the time - folded in January 2001, it stunned many who believed they were on the road to bigger and better things.
David McKenzie had won a stage in the previous year's Giro d'Italia, and the team had just signed neo-pro Bradley Wiggins and Max Sciandri to bolster their line up for the forthcoming season.
Clark, whose company OC Racing and Promotions owned the team, had ambition which knew no bounds. He continued to approach riders - most notably Kevin Livingstone, who had helped Lance Armstrong in his first two Tour de France victories - despite the fact that Linda McCartney Foods' new owner, Heinz, had decided not to renew its sponsorship deal for 2001.
It was agreed that Clark could use the prestigious McCartney name and logo to attract new sponsors, but there was no financial agreement.
The beginning of the end came when Jaguar denied it was sponsoring the team. There had been talks but the manufacturer did not want to pursue the opportunity. Nonetheless, Clark went ahead and commissioned Exte-Ondo to produce team jerseys - complete with Jaguar's logo - ready for the Tour Down Under.
Jacob's Creek did agree to have its name on the jersey for the Tour Down Under, but there was never any agreement to sponsor the team for the season.
So, despite having a budget for 2001 approaching £2.5m, Clark did not have a backer prepared to meet even a fraction of the bill. Cycling Weekly reported at the time that, because of debts from the previous season, they owed up to £800,000.
This figure was denied by Clark, but he added he was personally in debt to the tune of £300,000.
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