Former owner faces extra seven years in jail unless he can repay £5.8 million
A former racehorse owner faces seven more years in jail unless he can repay £5.8 million within three months.
International conman Joseph Birch used his racing business at North Tawton, Devon, as cover for a series of massive confidence tricks that were described as readling like scripts from Hollywood blockbuster Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.
He claimed to be a former Royal Marine, a special services operative, a peer and a knight, and swindled rich Americans by claiming his investment schemes had billions of dollars in the bank.
Birch lived a life of luxury with his former wife Grit at Higher Lowton Farm stables until British police and the FBI unravelled his schemes.
He is now serving a seven-and-a-half-year sentence in Dartmoor prison, but that could almost double if he fails to repay £5.8m.
Birch returned to Exeter Crown Court 18 months after his sentence to face a confiscation hearing under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
He claimed all the banking and accounting was handled by his former wife and he has no idea what happened to the money.
He said: “I have never done any accounts. I don't have any money. If I had money I would not have gone bankrupt. I have absolutely nothing at all. A large amount went into the stud and the horses."
He said he lost everything when Higher Lowton Farm was repossessed by a bank.
Judge Graham Cottle declared the amount by which Birch benefited from crime to be £7,528,613 and his available assets to be £5,816,199.44.
He ordered him to repay this amount within three months or serve an additional seven years in default.
Richard Shepherd, prosecutor in the original trial at Exeter Crown Court, had said of Birch and his then-wife: "They bred horses and had all the trappings of wealth that went with it.
"In reality, there is no evidence of any legitimate income. They benefited from his frauds with a luxury lifestyle. His frauds were reminiscent of Michael Caine and Steve Martin in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels."
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