Two Brighton men have been ordered to hand over thousands of pounds after being convicted and sentenced for money laundering in a horse race betting fraud.
Daig Head and Lee Taylor, both 41, were reckoned to have made criminal profits of about £3.5 million.
But a confiscation hearing at Hove Crown Court was told that they were found to have assets totalling less than £64,000 between them.
Judge Paul Tain ordered them to hand over the lot and said that they had three months to pay up or they would spend more time behind bars.
Head, of Fitch Drive, Bevendean, and formerly of Thornhill Rise, Portslade, and Taylor, of Montpelier Road, Brighton, face handing over more money if police find any further illicit gains.
Head was jailed for seven years by Judge Janet Waddicor at Hove Crown Court on Monday 11 February after pleading guilty to money laundering over a five-year period.
He was believed to have been the brains behind the betting scam.
Taylor also admitted money laundering and was sentenced to 20 months in prison, suspended for two years, for his lesser role in the scheme.
At the confiscation hearing, on Monday 3 June, Head was ordered to hand over all his currently available assets of just over £2,000 as compensation spread equally between seven victims.
He has three months to pay, with a default sentence of 60 days in prison, and he would still have to pay up even if he served the extra sentence.
Judge Tain told Taylor that he would have to hand over all his assets, totalling almost £62,000. A sum of nearly £30,000 from the total will be paid as compensation to his three victims who are due to get their money back in full.
He faces 12 months in prison if he fails to hand over the money and would also still have to pay it even if he served the extra sentence.
Detective Chief Inspector Andy Richardson, of the Sussex Police Economic Crime Unit, said: “This was a complex case of money laundering, which we believe they had been operating for about five years, and which came to us via national Action Fraud in November 2015.
“It was investigated by Detective Constable Duncan Lloyd, of our Brighton Investigations Team, working with the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service).
“Once the pair had been sentenced in February, one of our expert financial investigators completed an in-depth examination of their dealings and now we have also been able to secure these court orders, again working with the CPS.
“Head took the lead in contacting known horse racing gamblers and managed to get them to place bets into the accounts of himself and Taylor but then withdrew the money in cash.
“To keep the fraud going, Head would then ask for more money from the gamblers to recoup their ‘losses’ or said the ‘winnings’ were tied up in an off-shore company so they needed an advance fee to release it.”
Sussex Police said: “All the victims in this case, who came from across the UK, bet on horse racing through online or telephone accounts.
“All received some form of unsolicited texts from anonymous ‘tipsters’ offering initially free tips encouraging the victim to bet on a particular race.
“If this was successful, the complainant was often contacted and encouraged to pay a small amount for continuing tips.
“In some cases they were then encouraged to invest in a ‘syndicate’, offering unrealistically huge returns on their investment.
“Others were told that they had supposedly huge wins on a particular bet or ‘treble’ bet and then were asked to pay a percentage of the winnings to release the payment.
“Once the percentage payment was sent no such winnings were forthcoming.”
Detective Chief Inspector Richardson said: “The court found that that Head and Taylor had benefited by amounts greater than those they are currently required to repay.
“However, it is important to understand that we keep records of all existing confiscation orders where the full benefit amount isn’t immediately available and regularly check to identify any additional assets which have been obtained since the original order was made.
“We can then apply to the court for an increase in the original order. We can also seek the help of the South East Regional Asset Confiscation Enforcement (ACE) team, part of the South East Regional Organised Crime Unit (SEROCU), who will contact the offenders to help identify more assets.
“Meanwhile, even orders such as those just granted still send the important message that we will always go after criminal assets, even beyond conviction, to try to return them to lawful and useful purposes.
“Funds seized by the courts through POCA (Proceeds of Crime Act) confiscation or cash forfeiture orders go to the central government exchequer if they are not paid in compensation to specific victims as was done with some of the funds in this case.
“However, a proportion of the centrally seized funds is then returned to law enforcement. Similar amounts go the CPS and the court system.
“POCA-derived funding that returns to this force is distributed equally between the police and crime commissioner and the chief constable.
“Sussex Police receive 50 per cent cash back from cash forfeitures and 18.75 per cent cash back from confiscation orders such as these.
“We fund financial investigators and financial intelligence officers from part of these amounts to help continue our valuable work in seizing criminal assets, with the remainder being used to support local community crime reduction and diversion projects.”