TWO brothers have been jailed over a £1.6m property investment fraud that brought heartache to victims across the region and beyond.

Twins Paul and Peter Aspden targeted ordinary people who wanted to build a second home abroad. Some invested their life savings while others remortgaged their own homes.

But the investors lost sums varying from £18,000 to £110,000 as their dreams went sour and the homes never materialised.

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In total they defrauded 72 victims, including people from Darlington, Malton and Harrogate as well as further afield and even abroad.

The 54-year-old brothers were co-directors of a company called Independent Property Consultants, with offices in Scarborough and Blackpool, and admitted charges under the Trade Descriptions Act when they appeared at Leeds Crown Court.

Paul Apsden, of Lytham St Anne’s, was jailed for 42 months while his brother Peter, of the Cape Verde Islands, was sentenced to 10 months.

Their customers believed they had invested in properties at three sites on the Black Sea coast in Bulgaria, four separate developments in Bansko, Bulgaria, and one development in Santa Maria in Cape Verde Islands.

However, the brothers used their client’s cash to repay business and personal bank overdrafts, travel, personal shopping and also transferred money to other family members.

When investors became concerned about the lack of progress on their properties, they were fobbed off with excuses from the brothers who falsely reassured them that work was progressing to plan, or that the delay was the fault of the builders.

The investigation was one of North Yorkshire Police’s longest fraud investigations and began in 2009. Officers interviewed 112 people and produced over 580 documentary exhibits.

Detective Inspector Ian Wills head of the force’s financial investigation unit, said: “The company may have started out with the best of intentions, but from the moment their clients’ money started to arrive in their Bulgarian client account, things started to go wrong.

“Excessive amounts were removed and used for purposes other than funding the build.”

He said it was noteworthy that friends and relatives of the brothers did actually complete on their purchases.

But he added: “The victims in this case have had their dreams shattered, and in many cases faced severe financial hardship as a result of these crimes.”