A BUSINESSWOMAN’S life was in tatters last night after she was jailed for duping dozens of customers into believing she could provide cut-price iPads.

Kirsty Cox, left, from Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, spent more than £1.5m trying to make her “ludicrous” venture succeed and now faces losing her home, Teesside Crown Court was told yesterday.

Last night, her former brotherin- law told how he had been forced to flee his home after angry victims began showing up demanding their money back.

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Saul Kennedy said his family had been threatened by victims of the scam.

The court heard how 37- year-old Cox caused misery to families by tricking them into thinking she could get them the highlyvalued presents from contacts.

She offered half-price tablets, but ended up buying them at fullprice from high street stores and passing them on at a huge loss. Cox was said to have made no money from the scam, but now faces having her property seized for compensation.

Shaun Dodds, prosecuting, told the court that her only apparent asset is an interest in a house, which she says wil realise £60,000 if its sale is forced.

Cox, a twice-married mother-oftwo, wept as she was locked up for two years after she pleaded guilty to four charges of fraud amounting to £450,000.

Word had quickly spread about the deals, and thousands of orders were placed by people keen on a bargain – but their excitement soon turned to anger.

By the time Cox was arrested in December 2012, a mob of “disgruntled”

customers had gathered outside her home in Hamsterley Road, Mr Dodds told the court.

After she was arrested, she was kept in custody for her own safety, such was the anger she caused locally, before being moved to Wellbury Grove.

Her barrister, Paul Cleasby, said she had received treatment for “significant” mental health problems while in prison, and had used her time productively, completing courses.

At earlier hearings, Cox admitted four charges of fraud totalling £450,000, but the actual loss to customers was more than £1.1m.

She told people she had a source in the Middle East who could obtain iPads cheaply but was really buying them at full-price. She spent £1.52m on iPads from PC World and lost money on them. Mr Cleasby.

handed Judge George Moorhouse references about her previous business success, and letters from Cox and her parents.

She ran a number of mobile telecoms businesses – including KC Consultancy – before teaming up with an associate for the iPad venture.

The former business partner, Neil Hathaway, who lost £40,000, said he had been “taken in” along with the other victims.

When people contacted him to ask what had happened to iPad orders they had placed with Cox, he went through the paperwork and was shocked by what he found.

“I rang and asked her what on earth was going on.

“How had the business catapulted to this size?

“Was she paying VAT and was she fulfilling the orders?

On every level she reassured me with what I now know to be lies.” Later, Mr Hathaway received a telephone call from Cox to say she was “lying low”

in a Middlesbrough hotel, but would sort out the problems after Christmas.

Judge Moorhouse told Cox: “You have two young children who suffered miserably while you were on remand. I’m afraid they are going to suffer even more.”

Mr Cleasby said she did not make a profit from the scam, and her trading did not start out dishonestly, and when it escalated she did not put an end to it.

“There was no exit strategy where she could obtain vast amounts of money and fly away to an exotic lifestyle,” he said.

“Everything was done in her own name and registered to her address.

“There was no planning, there was no sophistication.”

Judge Moorhouse told her: “Although you had no personal gain, other people – through your false representations – have suffered considerable loss.

“It has also caused misery to some people, especially young children, who were expecting presents which never arrived.”