Stewart Kennedy splashed out on two trips to America – at a cost of nearly £30,000 – and pay for his son’s £1,400-per-month flat in London.
When one of his victims Stuart Caldwell came looking for his money he battered him with a baseball bat.
As Kennedy was led away from the dock to start a four-year prison sentence, he stared down Mr Caldwell as he walked to the cells
Kennedy, 52, told investors a franchise in his business, which was a pyramid scheme, was “the financial opportunity of a lifetime” for them.
He took £144,266.85 in cash and spent the company’s money on clothes bought in London’s trendy Camden, jewellery and living it up at the swish Corinthian Club in Glasgow city centre.
He went on a Disney cruise, visited New York, Florida and Greece, bought jewellery for his wife, tickets to Rangers games and meals in restaurants, reports the Daily Record.
Among those duped by Kennedy were cancer consultant Hosney Yosef, pharmacist Yassir Shaheen, project manager Osamah Shaheen, former deputy head teacher Mary Scott and former barrister’s clerk and property investor Pauline Bailey.
Also among his victims were joiner Andrew Aitken, ex-law lecturer Manjit Bhogal, mechanic Michael Barrett, pub owner Brian McGeoch, retired homeowner Carole Reid, unemployed Allan Walker, hairdresser Maxine McFarlane and Sanjay Bhaduri – a former principal consultant at KPMG.
Plumber Stuart Caldwell also paid £15,000 for a franchise and loaned Kennedy £18,000 for Sky TV adverts.
But he never received a single penny of his £33,000 back and when he went to Kennedy’s home in Quarrier’s Village, Renfrewshire, to find out what had happened to his investment, he was battered with a baseball bat.
Kennedy told investors they would receive a minimum of £4600 per month for 10 months as a return on each £15,000 sum they invested.
He charged clients a fee to restructure their debts and said each franchisee would “own” a postcode, securing them £575 for every completed debt rearrangement within the area.
Defiant Kennedy denied all wrongdoing during his month-long trial at Paisley Sheriff Court and said: “I believe I was grossly underpaid based on the hours I put in and the effort.
“I’m entitled, as the owner of the company, to take money to pay for bills and, the last time I looked, I don’t believe it’s a crime to go on holiday.”
He blamed the collapse of the company on negative press coverage of him and said it had cost him £1.2million.
But a jury convicted Kennedy of three charges – of fraudulently gaining more than £247,405 in franchise sales and the £18,000 loan from Caldwell, and an assault rap over the baseball bat attack.
Sentence was deferred for background reports and when Kennedy returned to the dock yesterday to learn his fate, it emerged prosecutors are pursuing him under Proceeds of Crime laws to recover his criminal profits.
Defence solicitor Gordon Ritchie said Kennedy could reimburse investors who were conned between April 2010 and August 2011 if spared jail as he earns nearly £100,000 per year helping businesses reduce their rates.
The lawyer added: “Under Proceeds of Crime laws, any sums recovered from the accused would go to the state.
“It is more important the victims of any crime get compensation rather than the Crown and the state profit. Any profits under my recommendation would be repaid to the complainers [investors].”
But Sheriff Seith Ireland opted to jail Kennedy for four years for what he described as “a substantial fraud” that allowed him to live “a quite luxurious lifestyle”.
A Proceeds of Crime hearing is now scheduled to take place next month.
Kennedy was wheeling and dealing right up to the point of being jailed.
And he offered to stump up £50,000 he had stashed in his brother-in-law’s bank account to buy his way out of jail time.
But Sheriff Ireland refused the offer – querying why shady Kennedy was able to offer such a payment when he owes at least £210,000.
Mr Ritchie said his client should be allowed to stay out of jail and work to rake in the cash he stole. He said: “There’s a very real prospect of repayment of the sums lost by complainers in this case.
“He advises there is a possibility of repayment within two to three years. If he can’t repay the money, he has to go to jail.”
Sheriff Ireland’s four-year-sentence effectively killed off the hopes of some victims of receiving compensation from Kennedy.
But Kennedy’s admission of having a large amount of cash means victims could attempt to pursue him in a civil court.