A CONMAN who fleeced his friends out of more than £300,000 and helped himself to tens of thousands from a cricket club has been jailed.

Former bank worker Gary Sams defrauded his friends out of their life savings by falsely promising to invest their cash in a scam that lasted a number of years.

He appeared at Newcastle Crown Court where he was sentenced to seven years behind bars.

The 52-year-old, of Drover Road, Consett, told friends he needed to borrow money, that they were short-term loans and he intended on paying them back.

However, he spent the money on his own family’s living expenses, or paying off debts owed to other people.

Some of the cash was also spent on a private box at Sunderland Football Club, his daughter’s wedding and a trip to Disneyland.

At the same time as defrauding friends, during the period between 2006 and 2013, Sams helped himself to nearly £80,000 from Annfield Plain Cricket Club while acting as its treasurer.

Sams insisted the club was in dire financial straits. He claimed to be working hard to sort their finances out, and that he was holding money back to pay suppliers direct so as not to incur banking charges.

In 2014, his lies began to unravel and a police investigation was launched.

After a four-year investigation, Sams was found guilty of five counts of fraud and admitted theft from the cricket club.

The court on Thursday, August 2, heard some cash had been paid back to victims and that the defendant was remorseful.

Sams was also described as having suffered from mental health issues and a claim he was living a lavish lifestyle was disputed.

The officer who led the investigation, Detective Constable Andy Froggatt, from Consett CID, said he and Sams’ victims were pleased with the sentence.

Det Con Froggatt said: "This has been a lengthy and complicated investigation in which Sams had deceived his closest friends into cashing in their pension funds and their life savings.

“He told them a string of lies and used the money to fund his own lavish lifestyle. He has shown no remorse for what he has done to them and they rightly feel angered at the betrayal of their friendship.

“He also used his entrusted position as the cricket club treasurer to take money from the bar takings and the clubs restoration fund putting the club in dire financial state.

"Sams has presided over the near demise of a much-loved and vital community asset.”

Det Con Froggatt added: “I would like to thank the victims for their patience and support during this enquiry. I would also like to thank the team who have worked with me on the case - their skill and professionalism has helped bring this enquiry to a successful conclusion.”