A professional wrestler who conspired with a law student in a £1.5 million pound VAT scam has been jailed.
Hulking Ghent Wakefield, 32, was offered a contract with America’s famous WWE wrestling federation in 2011.
But after suffering a career-changing injury that ended his dreams of stardom in the USA, the former male stripper turned to a life of crime.
He set up a company in his name to allow Paul Hackney, 36, a former lance corporal in the Royal Artillery, to use for a lucrative fraud.
A court heard Wakefield also acted as “henchman” for Hackney and chauffeured him around in a Rolls Royce Phantom.
In return, Hackney treated Wakefield to an all expenses first-class trip to Australia and helicopter tours in London, where they stayed in luxury hotels.
In October last year Hackney was jailed for six years for fraudulently exploiting EU trade rules to fund his extravagant lifestyle.
He admitted conspiracy to cheat HM Revenue and Customs and conspiring to launder money.
And on Tuesday Wakefield, from Stoke-on-Trent, Staffs., joined him behind bars after being sentenced to 17 months in prison at Manchester Crown Court.
He was found guilty of conspiracy to cheat the revenue at an earlier trial.
Sentencing Judge Martin Steiger QC, said: “Wakefield was Hackney’s driver and henchman when Hackney was ironically studying for a law degree.
“Furthermore, this defendant received treats quite apart from what he was paid by Hackney – he went on a lavish trip to Australia and two ostentatious trips by helicopter.
“He must have known all this profusion of money squandered on luxuries was coming from crime.”
Hackney, from Salford, Manchester, used a string of companies to claim refunds for sales of construction equipment which had never taken place.
Wakefield’s company – Equinox Manufacturing – was used in a failed bid to make a fraudulent VAT reclaim for £45,000.
Nicholas Tatlow, defending, said Wakefield had derived limited benefit from the fraud.
He told the court: “It’s plain that this defendant was used and manipulated by a particularly sophisticated and intelligent criminal, Paul Hackney.
“He’s a man who was plainly anxious to please and a man who was all too easily impressed by Hackney’s show of wealth and sophistication.”
Wakefield took up wrestling in 2009 and joined the British Wrestling Alliance.
The wrestler later impressed WWE scouts and he was offered a training contract in 2011 subject to a physical test.
But he suffered an unfortunate injury at a show in Skegness, Lincs., that same year and ruptured both biceps, which ended his dreams of stardom.
Prior to that Wakefield had appeared at a tournament in his home town which had featured the world famous masked wrestler Kendo Nagasaki.