FORMER football club boss George Reynolds was thrown back behind bars only days before his freedom became official, it was revealed last night.
With a fortnight to go on a home detention curfew (HDC), the tagged entrepreneur was re-arrested after returning late to his luxury Durham City apartment three times.
Last night, the man who once boasted a string of mansions, a helicopter and an ocean-going yacht, said he had unwittingly broken the curfew.
And he said he is planning to take legal action over breaches of the HDC guidelines he claims have been made by the Government-appointed security company G4S.
Reynolds, former chairman of Darlington Football Club, was released on licence from Whealstun Prison, near Wakefield, on December 5 last year, after serving 14 months of a three-year jail sentence for cheating the tax man.
A provision of his early release was that he remained on a 7.15pm to 7.15am curfew, which was monitored by G4S by means of an electronic ankle tag, for four months.
His early release meant he could resume his place at the helm of his new perfume business.
However, the demands of his venture prompted Reynolds to request a change to the curfew hours - to 9pm to 9am.
The request was granted, but the former multi-millionaire failed to read the small print.
The new hours applied only between Monday and Friday, while weekends remained on the former 7.15pm to 7.15am regime.
A Home Office spokeswoman said yesterday: "When an offender requests curfew amendments, they are required to sign a new licence."
Reynolds' signed acceptance of the new regulation proved his undoing.
On Saturday, March 24, he claimed he was "unwittingly" 30 minutes late back to his penthouse apartment. The following day, he arrived back one hour and 19 minutes late, and on Saturday, March 31, he was 20 minutes late.
Reynolds said: "I have to hold my hands up and agree that I broke the curfew, but does anyone in their right mind think that I would have knowingly broken the rules with just a few days left on the tag?"
A knock on the door preceded Reynolds' re-arrest, on Good Friday, but, with the prisons full, he was held at Durham City police station for four days.
He was then transferred to Durham Prison, from where he was released last week.
Reynolds said: "Surely, you have to question what good it did to take a 71-year-old man back into prison with all the resulting costs with just 12 days to go. It doesn't make any sense.
"If I had been told by letter that I was in breach of the curfew then, obviously, I would have made sure I did not break the rules again."
According to the Home Office, anyone on HDC should be visited by G4S officers every 28 days for the tagging equipment to be checked.
"I have only received one visit in four months," claimed Reynolds, who is understood to have had a 100 per cent attendance at all of his probation officer meetings.
A spokeswoman for the Probation Service yesterday refused to comment, but it is understood that the local office was not informed of his re-arrest, as it should have been.
G4S and the Home Office both said last night they would not comment on an individual case, but it is understood that G4S is asserting it has "completely followed the protocol".
Reynolds said last night: "It is correct that I broke the guidelines.
"But I believe that G4S have also flaunted the rules and they should also be reprimanded."
He added: "I have notified my solicitor and I intend to take this matter to court if it is not rectified properly and fairly."