Victims of a Wigan fraudster say they hope he “rots in hell” after he decimated their country farm attraction.
Self-styled millionaire investor Michael Milner left a trail of destruction from Wigan Pier to South Cumbria and is now beginning a 17-year-plus prison sentence.
Other news: Clash as driveway blocked by girders on Wigan street
Milner conned Wigan solicitor Rose Egarr out of £130,000 by pretending he was due a compensation payout from police, Preston Crown Court heard.
The 60-year-old disgraced lawyer is starting her own 30-month jail term for stealing £200,000 from clients at her now-closed King Street practice Arthur Smith’s.
But Milner, formerly of Aspull, also wrecked the lives of Donna and Paul Latham, after he tried to buy out their Cumbrian farm business, called Ducky’s.
The couple were looking to retire after building up the firm, when the 49-year-old arrived on the scene and offered them £1.6m for their site.
The court heard he was an undischarged bankrupt though, who had already cheated firms in Wigan, including Allgates and Thwaites breweries, and GS Cold Storage, out of £40,000, after setting up a bogus venture, Wigan Pier Pubs and Brewery Ltd.
Milner roped in Malcolm Keith, 46, to manage Ducky’s, based in Flookburgh, and enlisted retired accountant Paul Kelly, 66, to draw up a business plan.
Prosecutor Jacob Dyer said Milner’s bid was supported by a raft of fraudulent documents.
Jurors heard when the dodgy businessman’s dealings started to unravel, he arranged for two youths to firebomb the farm.
Mr Dyer said the Lathams’ holdings were valued at £600,000 less because of their involvement with Milner.
Speaking after the case, Mr Latham said: “We lost three years of our lives.
“I hope he rots in hell.”
The Lathams described Milner as a “puppet master” to police who had “destroyed their lives”.
He was convicted of various fraud offences and charges including arson, perverting the course of justice and breaching company disqualification orders.
Keith was jailed for 20 months for aiding and abetting Milner and Kelly got 30 months for fraud.
Milner’s ex-partner Sarah Armstrong, 33, from Haigh, was also jailed for 12 months for perverting the course of justice.
Other victims of Milner included John and Richard Stables, two farming brothers, also from Cumbria.
He tried to obtain a £490,000 mortgage for their land from the Lancashire Mortgage Corporation.
But after the deal collapsed, and he reneged on promised payments to their landlords, the Stables have been left facing eviction from their land.
Even after he was arrested, Milner made dozens of phone calls to the brothers, in an attempt to persuade them not to co-operate with the authorities.
And when his phone number was blocked by police, he enlisted the help of ex-girlfriend Armstrong, so he could carry on with his campaign of intimidation.
Jailing him, Judge Heather Lloyd said: “It is abundantly clear that you are a thoroughly dishonest and unscrupulous man.”
She told the court that he had used his victims as “cash cows”, as he tried to variously claim that he was due compensation from the police and from a family trust.
Judge Lloyd also expressed surprise that Egarr, an experienced solicitor, had been taken in by Milner’s lies.