A BUSINESSMAN who admitted fleecing people out of about £1.6m in an investment scam is today (Monday, February 17) behind bars.

David Reid, 49, of Burnhope, near Stanley, County Durham, pleaded guilty to 22 offences of obtaining money transfers by deception and one charge of participating in a fraudulent business.

Judge Guy Whitburn said Reid faced a substantial prison sentence for the “bare-faced fraud” of people who trusted him.

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Speaking after the hearing at Newcastle Crown Court, one victim said the “Jekyll and Hyde” Reid had conned her out of more than £31,000 left to her by her late husband - after giving a glowing eulogy at his funeral.

The charges follow an investigation by police into financial irregularities at his company Washington Mortgage Centre, which was based at The Galleries shopping centre on Wearside.

Judge Guy Whitburn QC said: “This is an appalling fraud on people who trusted him, in an area in which he was extremely well known and others recommended. This was a bare-faced fraud.”

Jamie Adams, defending, asked that Reid’s bail be extended to allow him the opportunity to “get his affairs in order”.

Refusing bail, the judge said: “It is inevitable that as serious fraud as this will be punished by a substantial period of imprisonment. In my view that should start now.”

A 67-year-old widow, who did not wish to be named, told The Northern Echo: “When my husband was diagnosed with cancer he only survived for three months.

“And we thought David Reid as such a a good friend of the family.

“He walked behind my husband’s coffin to the church and gave the eulogy at the church standing in front of the coffin.

“He knew I had this money to come. David had told us – my husband as well, before he died – that he could invest this money for us.

“This money was to help me once my husband had gone.”

She added: “After he died David helped me with the probate.

“As far as we knew he was a solicitor. I found out since he isn’t. He was like a Jekyll and Hyde. He was totally believable.

“That is why it hit me so hard. You couldn’t believe it.

“At the funeral he gave a magnificent spiel about my husband being such a good friend. “To me that has now made a mockery of the whole thing.”

Reid will be sentenced in the week commencing March 17.