An apprentice contestant fired from the show for ”not having the ruthless streak” to succeed in business was facing jail today after he admitted a string of fraud charges.
Former Royal Marine Christopher Farrell, 29, falsified mortgage applications by inflating clients’ salaries and, in some cases, inventing jobs for them.
Farrell, who worked as a mortgage broker for two years, was ”desperate” to obtain mortgages for clients so he could meet his monthly £5,000 target and get a bonus.
But clients had no idea Farrell was lying on official records and submitting them to banks and building societies on their behalf.
Farrell, from The Wirral, Merseyside, was originally arrested in August, shortly before the current BBC1 series – which finished on Sunday – was aired.
He was fired by Lord Sugar in week eight of the show, after being told he was a ‘nice guy’ but lacked the ‘ruthless streak’ to join his organisation.
Today, he admitted four counts of fraud by falsifying pay slips and P60s at Plymouth Magistrate’s Court, Devon, and asked for another three to be taken into consideration.
David Gittins, prosecuting, said: ”Christopher Farrell started working at mortgages4Plymouth in November 2007 and worked there until he was told ‘you’re fired’ in August 2009.
”On top of this standard salary he received a bonus if he exceeded his £5,000 monthly target.
”It was not until July 2008 that he began to exceed this but did not receive a bonus until he was fired in August 2009.
”He then appeared as a contestant on the BBC’s Apprentice and was fired from the in November.
”The crown’s case is that Mr Farrell obtained mortgages for clients fraudulently by falsifying their incomes.
”Although it is important to note that he did so without their knowledge to ensure lenders granted mortgages and thus ensuring he reached his monthly target.”
He added that Farrell only stood to benefit between £200 to £300 from the scam.
Farrell joined Mortgages4Plymouth in November 2007 after leaving the Royal Marines, the court heard.
But he struggled to support his wife and child, now seven, on his ‘modest’ £1600 a month salary and started altering documents to ensure clients were granted mortgages.
He created payslips, amended letters from ’employers’ and increased incomes to ensure banks and building societies looked favourably on his clients.
The court heard that none of this clients had since defaulted on the payments and had no idea about the scam.
He obtained a false mortgage for Nigel Blenkarne by increasing his salary of £40,000 to £125,000 to ensure he was given a £570,000 mortgage between September 1 2007 and August 23 2009.
Between April and May that year he also inflated the salary of Marcia Edwards by £6,500 to ensure she was given a mortgage with Santander Bank, Plymouth.
Later that year, Farrell was dealing with a re-mortgage for Michael Bray to pay for his daughter’s university fees and claimed his wife was an employee of Lewisham Council.
He was caught out when he left a phone number on the pay slip bearing a Plymouth phone number, as he had used a Plymouth pay slip as a template.
Farrell also created a false pay slip for Marlise Ceename, claiming her student partner Peter Phillips was working at the University of Plymouth.
But he was caught out after one of the lenders, Santander Bank, carried out their own investigations and found he had altered official documents.
He was arrested in August and quizzed by Devon and Cornwall police, but denied the offences, claiming they were carried out by someone else at the branch.
But he later admitted the fraud and asked for three other offences to be taken into consideration.
Tracey Baker, mitigating, told the court Farrell only stood to gain a small amount from the scam and was ‘pressured’ into it after struggling to make ends meet for his wife and child.
Recorder Terry Bray told him that due to the ‘stress’ placed on his victims and the nature of the fraud, he would be sentenced at Crown Court.
Farrell, who now works as a private contractor offering security for naval ships in war-zones, will be sentenced at Plymouth Crown Court on January 28.
Farrell, who survived in the Apprentice for eight weeks, also has a weapons conviction which he failed to disclose to the TV producers.
He appeared before a judge in the Devon city last September where he admitted two charges of possessing an offensive weapon.
Police found an extendable baton and a knuckleduster in his Mercedes car after being called to his Plymouth home following a domestic argument with his wife.
Farrell’s wife did not press charges but a judge rejected claims the weapons were ‘trinkets’ from his days in the Marines.
He was given a two year conditional discharge and ordered to pay £847 costs.
On his Apprentice profile, Farrell said that as an ex commando he is not afraid to give people a ”kick up the backside”, claiming he shows no emotion and likes to be pushed.
He told BBC chiefs: ”I’ve been to the other side of things where friends lose legs, lose limbs, so I know I’m lucky to be where I am.
”I was a sniper in the Royal Marines and I take that killer instinct across into business.”
Farrell yesterday refused to comment on his latest conviction.