The wicked criminal careers of a South Yorkshire blackmail gang’s key members is today revealed as they face years behind bars for a terrifying tarmac con.
Terence Cunningham Snr and William Adams, both of Askern, Doncaster, staged a ‘sophisticated’ operation in which they threatened to castrate wealthy Tyneside business owners to extort thousands of pounds in cash.
Now Cunningham Snr’s son, also named Terence, has been found guilty of blackmail and faces years behind bars for his role in the conspiracy.
Cunningham Jnr and Adams were jailed in Canada for an almost identical paving scam in which they offered to tarmac a church car park for free.
But they later threatened to tear-up the work at the premises in Mississauga, Ontario, and torch the church if he failed to pay more than $23,000.
Officers later seized counterfeit IDs and documentation when they were arrested at a nearby hotel along with evidence of the on-going scam in Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia.
A judge told Cunningham Jnr and Adams they would serve a prison sentence of just 25 days and deported back to the UK.
Prosecutors in England say the ‘ink on their passports could barely have been dry’ when they began a harrowing blackmail plot back home in the UK.
Peter Makepeace, prosecuting at Newcastle Crown Court, said: “The gang did some tarmacing work. You might think to yourself, ‘Why bother?’. The answer is simply but slightly worrying.
“In each of these cases work was carried out and when the victims contacted police and told them what had happened the police invariably said it was not a matter for them, it was a matter for trading standards and civil matter.
“Clearly by carrying out a little bit of work they evaded police attention for months, and months, and months.
“It was not until the end of 2011 when these men made the fatal decision to come to Newcastle.
“The police didn’t just look at what the police did in the North East, they looked backwards and drew together all these separate incidents.
“This was the first time it dawned on them it was a national scam.”
The gang travelled around the country during a 12-month operation and targeted businesses in Newcastle, Sheffield, Birmingham, Hull and Devon in an effort to blackmail thousands of pounds out of small firms.
When victims refused to pay the gang made threatening phone calls claiming to be Big Fat Gypsy Wedding star Paddy Doherty. There is no suggestion Mr Doherty, winner of Celebrity Big Brother, had any connection with the group.
The court was told the gang threatened to castrate victims and one company boss was told 200 caravans would be parked on his land if cash was not paid.
Cunningham Snr, 48, and Adams, 46, both of Sutton Road, Askern, Doncaster, admitted one charge of conspiracy to blackmail.
And after a six-week hearing a jury took less than three hours to find Cunningham Jnr, 26, of Sutton Road, Askern, and Darren Squire, 43, of Manor Road, Askern, guilty of the same charge.
Michael Howley, 72, of Highgrove, Messingham, Scunthorpe, who is already behind bars for washing dirty cash, was found guilty of money laundering. They will be sentenced next month.
Prosecutors claimed Jason Hazell, 43, of Spa Terrace, Askern, and Triston Saltmarsh, 34, of Sutton Road, Askern, were ‘foot soldiers’ in the plot but the pair were cleared of blackmail pair.