A CALLOUS conman, who cruelly fleeced an estimated £3.5m from friends and clients in an long-running investment scam, has been jailed for six years.

Police described the actions of David Reid as “disgusting” after he admitted stealing “generations of families’ inheritance” and pensions and savings, while duping people into thinking they were securing their futures. Some victims were left destitute and lost their homes.

The 50-year-old, who operated the Washington Mortgage Centre, spent his ill-gotten gains on expensive hotels, skiing holidays, vets bills and indulging his love of shooting.

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He also bought a boat and luxury cars, including an Audi A8, a Mercedes and a Range Rover, and was known for throwing lavish parties.

One neighbor he befriended allowed the conman to take control of his wife’s £300,000 legacy after she died - the bulk of which was intended for the care of his Down’s Syndrome daughter. The family lost it all.

In another instance, Reid conned about £31,000 from a grieving widow, after he had giving a glowing eulogy at her late husband’s funeral.

Newcastle Crown Court was told Reid advised victims to place their money in an offshore account where it would accrue a higher rate of interest, with payments going directly to their bank accounts.  Suspicions were finally aroused when  the payments stopped in November 2012.

Police found that the offshore account did not exist and documentation supporting the account was false.

Today, more than 40 victims packed into the court to hear sentence passed on a man branded “greedy, callous and cold-hearted” by the prosecution.

Reid, of St John’s Mews, in Burnhope, County Durham, who was previously known for his fine suits, cut a shabby figure in the dock, dressed in a baggy white t-shirt. He showed no emotion.

Judge James Goss QC said, despite realising the scheme was unsustainable, Reid continued to obtain and invest cash, causing his victims eventual losses of £1.68m.

He added: “The bland facts do not reveal the meanness and individual consequences of your offending which was committed against elderly and entirely trusting decent people – some of whom were in a vulnerable situation by reason of ill health or other circumstances including bereavement.

“They were cruelly deceived by your false veneer of professionalism and reassurance and have suffered – some ruinously.”

Reid pleaded guilty to 22 offences of obtaining a money transfer by deception between 2001 and 2013. He also admitted one count of participating in a fraudulent business from 2007.

A total of 51 victims have so far come forward.

Jamie Adams, mitigating, said Reid had not set out to defraud anyone and had run a bona fide financial services for many years before the offences.

He said, Reid became “overconfident and thought he could play the system” – which crashed in 2007/08.

Mr Adams added, Reid had tried to commit suicide twice last year due to his shame and remorse.

Northumbria Police DCI Christina Barrett said: "Reid gained the trust of his victims. He deceived people out of millions of pounds and left many of his victims suffering significant financial hardship.

“These people put their trust in Reid and his actions are nothing short of disgusting.”

She added: “I'm satisfied with the sentence passed, which ensures this man is behind bars for his callous and coldhearted actions."

The court was told the police had passed a file on Reid to the CPS in 2003, but there was not deemed to be any evidence to prosecute him.