Page last updated at 14:28 GMT, Wednesday, 11 June 2008 15:28 UK

Students 'conned by bogus school'

Michael and Angela Smallman
Michael and Angela Smallman face charges

More than 80,000 students were conned out of cash by a bogus college which raked in millions of pounds, a court has been told.

The National Distance Learning College (NDLC) in Middlesbrough, collapsed after three years, in November 2001.

During that time just 18 students gained a recognised qualification from the body, Teesside Crown Court heard.

Three men and a woman deny fraud and money laundering charges. The trial is expected to last at least four months.

'Very rich man'

Michael Smallman, 44, of Northallerton, Peter Kenyon, 42, of Great Ayton, both North Yorkshire, and John Hornsby, 59, of Darlington, face charges of fraudulent trading.

Mr Smallman's wife Angela, 41, also faces charges, including money-laundering.

At the opening of the trial, the prosecution alleged Mr Smallman, who set up the college, had once described the company as the largest college of its type in Europe.

Andrew Wheeler, prosecuting, said: "During the three year period from 1999 to 2001, something over 15m flooded into the accounts of the college, making Mr Smallman a very rich man indeed."

He said the three men "dishonestly pretended" to students that the courses were accredited by major educational bodies such as BTEC and City and Guilds.

But money in the NDLC accounts - as well as government grants for the students' training - was transferred for Mr Smallman's personal interests such as gambling, Mr Wheeler said.

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