SHE craved the life of a celebrity and fancied herself as the next successful entrepreneur - with ambitious plans to become a young millionaire.

Yet, the truth was a long way from the dream, and will now seem even more distant as convicted fraudster Kirsty Cox languishes in a prison cell.

While she is behind bars, the mother-of-two will have the words of a judge, a financial investigator and even her own barrister ringing in her ears.

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Lawyer Paul Cleasby described Cox's business model as "bizarre" and "ludicrous" while the fraud expert said: "It was doomed to failure from the outset."

She was today (FRIDAY) jailed for a £450,000 iPad scam which left dozens of people - many of them children - heartbroken and seriously out-of-pocket.

The fraud came to light just over a year ago and ruined Christmas for many of the County Durham con-woman's victims, Teesside Crown Court heard yesterday.

One customer lost more than £20,000 and another handed over £14,000 for cut-price tablets promised by Cox but which never arrived, said Shaun Dodds, prosecuting.

All the while, the 37-year-old - who was involved in a number of businesses - socialised in champagne bars and enjoyed seemingly endless sunshine holidays.

One friend told The Northern Echo: "She had ambitions of becoming a female Alan Sugar, and was always boasting about her business success.

"This enterprise didn't make her a thing, but cost an awful lot of people. Lots of people were taken in by her, but she obviously lived in a fantasy world."

One victim, who placed orders for dozens of other people, said: "I am out-of-pocket for over £21,000. I feel absolutely terrible about what has happened.

"My friends, family and work colleagues were expecting iPads, but they won't get them. Some wanted them for Christmas. I feel terrible. I feel cheated.

"I will reimburse who I can out of my own pocket, but this cannot be everyone."

Judge George Moorhouse told Cox: "Although you had no personal gain from what you did, other people have suffered considerable losses and suffering."

Another victim revealed that he has no money to pay back the customers he had lined up, and now fears that he will lose his two businesses and his home.

"Some of the buyers were on low incomes and can ill-afford to lose any money. I just wish everyone who paid hard-earned money will get their items."

Mr Cleasby told Judge Moorhouse it was "inexplicable" that a once seemingly successful businesswoman with no previous convictions should be in court.

"The activities didn't start out dishonestly," he said. "There was no planning, there was no sophistication. It seems to have been a snowball effect.

"There was no exit strategy where she could have obtained vast amounts of money and flown away to an exotic lifestyle. Everything was done in her own name.

"Where it went wrong was when the business escalated and she could not fulfill the orders, she didn't put a stop to it, and that allowed the losses to escalate.

"This offending makes no sense on any level. It was a ludicrous situation. There is no getting away from it. She made no profit, and it is, frankly, bizarre."