Couple found guilty of large-scale property fraud to be sentenced

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A couple found guilty of a large-scale property fraud following what is believed to be the longest criminal trial in UK legal history are due to be sentenced on Tuesday.

Edwin McLaren, 52, put together the £1.7 million property fraud scheme, which involved duping vulnerable victims in financial difficulty to sign over their homes.

He and his wife Lorraine McLaren, 51, were convicted on May 16 following a trial at the High Court in Glasgow which began in September 2015 and heard evidence over 320 days.

They are due to be sentenced at the court on Tuesday.

McLaren was found guilty of a scheme which involved him preying on vulnerable people and arranging for the title deeds of their homes to be transferred to his associates without the victims' knowledge.

Police said he targeted people through adverts in the national press for companies advertising as property solutions or home sale solutions, his target market being vulnerable people in financial distress as a result of family bereavement, debt or illness.

These individuals would contact him and he would either offer to buy their house or lend them money to clear their debts.

In return, he would get what he would say was a part-share ownership of their property.

In fact, their properties were being transferred wholesale to the names of others, unknown to them, meaning they lost the title deeds to their homes.

McLaren would drip feed them money, but the victims did not get the amount they were expecting.

Concerns were first raised by a woman who made a complaint to Fife Constabulary in 2012 because she had not been paid the full amount for her house in Cowdenbeath.

Police worked out that there were further properties linked to this incident, and the case was transferred to the Financial Investigation Unit at Paisley which found that a lot more were involved.

McLaren was snared after a police investigation involving up to 100 officers discovered a massive fraudulent scheme, with 29 properties appearing on the indictment.

The trial lasted so long as the court heard evidence for a number of days from each witness, some of whom were vulnerable, and there was also evidence from experts on topics such as conveyancing and accountancy.

Witness Shona Harrison was so ill that the court took evidence from her in her house, as she was too unwell even to go to the court nearest her at Newcastle and give evidence via video link.

She gave evidence via video link from her house. Her living room was set up as a court, with a macer present to pass documents to her.

The trial did not sit every day, while there were also breaks due to jurors being ill, and to give everyone a break and allow them to deal with other commitments.

At one stage there was a three-week break as one juror was getting married.