A married traveller couple who conned vulnerable people out of £1.9million by threatening them with IRA punishment were jailed for more than 11 years.
Dennis and Bianca McGinley, 30 and 25, told his terrified victims he represented a ”three lettered organisation” from Northern Ireland.
He blackmailed his victims into handing over hundreds of thousands of pounds and forced one farmer, who lives with his elderly mother near York, to give him a staggering £850,000.
Dennis admitted conspiracy to defraud, blackmail and money laundering and was sentenced to eight years imprisonment yesterday.
Bianca pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud and money laundering and received a jail term of three-and-a-half years.
Sentencing the pair at Leeds Crown Court, Judge Rodney Grant revealed that their crimes had ”ruined lives”.
He said: ”The scheme involved sucking these victims in and then systematically increasing pressure upon them and at various stages adding threats and fear.
”Your behaviour has ruined lives and that is exactly what has happened in this case.”
The McGinleys, who are from a travelling community in Taunton, Somerset, targeted five victims in Somerset, North Yorkshire and Staffordshire between March 2006 and March 2009.
They targeted people who had done business with the traveller community or bought vehicles from them.
Dennis would claim their money had been used to purchase drugs and threatened them with kneecapping and the possible involvement of the IRA.
Police began investigating last year after a complaint was made by a farmer from North Yorkshire who had been defrauded of £850,000.
The unnamed man was first persuaded to lend money to an Irishman named Mr Wilson before Dennis McGinley, going under the alias Paul Quinn, visited in January 2008.
He extorted hundreds of thousands of pounds from the man after claiming to represent a ”three lettered organisation” from Northern Ireland.
One victim in Somerset, who was a vulnerable man living alone, lost more than £80,000 and had to declare himself bankrupt and leave his home.
Speaking after the sentencing Detective Inspector Adam Harland revealed McGinley’s victims did not contact police because they felt ”foolish”.
He said: ”When we were first confronted with the scale of these blackmails, it was hard for all those on the enquiry to understand how anyone could lose a million pounds and not make some effort to contact the police.
”However, the fear engendered in the victims by Dennis McGinley was so real that they handed over vast amounts of money, representing the benefit from a life’s worth of work, rather than seek help.
”Each victim felt like an individual target, and the events had a profound effect on their health and sense of security.
”There may even have been a feeling that to reveal what had happened would make them appear foolish.”