Page last updated at 15:36 GMT, Thursday, 11 December 2008

Fake college boss sent to prison

Michael and Angela Smallman
Michael and Angela Smallman "struggled to keep the college afloat"

A man who ran a bogus college in a 16m fraud which involved 80,000 students has been jailed for seven years.

Michael Smallman, 45, of Northallerton, was convicted of fraudulent trading while his wife Angela was convicted of money laundering in October.

Smallman ran the National Distance Learning College (NDLC) in Middlesbrough which collapsed in 2001.

His wife was jailed for 15 months. Only 18 students received diplomas from the college, Teesside Crown Court heard.

The college's directors, Peter Kenyon, 43, and John Hornsby, 59, were cleared of fraud after a four-month trial earlier this year.

The court heard Smallman tempted 80,000 students to sign up for his home study courses, netting him 10m in 15 months.

But only 18 of the would-be graduates ended up with a genuine qualification when they finished their studies.

Between September 2000 and November 2001, Smallman's company was running a massive fraud, cheating the students and the government by offering inadequate training, refusing to refund students who chose not to go ahead with the course and claiming the qualification was accredited by the City and Guilds of London Institute when it was not.

'Unlike Robin Hood'

When it collapsed, the business owed 3.5m to creditors. The hearing also heard that millions made from the college had been spent on horseracing and property renovation.

Prosecutor Andrew Wheeler said: "Even at the early stage his (Smallman's) intentions were clear, money was the prime driving factor to the detriment of students.

"This was not just sharp practice, it went well beyond what ordinary and decent people would regard as honest - it was fraudulent."

Peter Woodall, defending Smallman, of Leeming Lane, said that he had not set out to commit fraud but had struggled to keep the college afloat.

Judge George Moorhouse told him that unlike Robin Hood he had robbed the poor to make himself rich.



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