Fraudster James McCormick is jailed for 10 years for what an Old Bailey judge described as a “callous confidence trick” in selling fake bomb detectors to violence-torn countries.
In a scam worth over £50m, McCormick sold the phoney devices – which were based on a £13 novelty golf ball finder – to customers around the world including the United Nations.
7,000 devices were sold – many to the Iraqi government. One invoice showing sales to the country exceeded £38m over nearly three years.
Passing sentence, Judge Hone told McCormick: “The device was useless, the profit outrageous and your culpability as a fraudster has to be placed in the highest category.”
Your culpability as a fraudster has to be placed in the highest category. Judge Hone on fraudster James McCormick
Judge Hone QC went on: “The principal aggravating feature is that although it cannot be proved that the use of the device caused a specific death or loss of limb – and I accept that at Iraqi checkpoints other detection devices were used – yet what you perpetrated was a callous confidence trick.
“The jury found that you knew the devices did not work, yet the soldiers in Iraq and elsewhere believed in them, in part due to your powers of salesmanship and in part the extravagant and fraudulent claims made in your promotional material.”
Each device cost less than £50 to produce, but they were sold for prices ranging from £30,000 to £2,500.
Describing the profits, which funded McCormick’s “greedy and extravagant lifestyle” including grand houses and a yacht, as “obscene”, Judge Hone noted that: “soldiers, police forces, border customs officers, hotel security staff and many other users trusted their lives to the overpriced devices sold by you, which were no more than crude plastic components with a disconnected antenna and a capability of detecting explosives no better than random chance.”
Countless tragedies have been caused, both directly and indirectly, because of these devices. Liam FitzGerland-Finch, former army bomb disposal officer
The judge said McCormick had shown no shame or sense of remorse and gave him a maximum ten year sentence. He will serve at least five before being released on licence and the police will now start proceedings to confiscate his assets.
Commenting on the sentence, Liam FitzGerald-Finch, a former British Army bomb disposal officer, told Channel 4 News: “These things are not just unreliable, they don’t work at all. Countless tragedies have been caused, both directly and indirectly, because of these devices.
“People put their lives in the these devices and relied on them, and it was a con.”