Briton jailed for trying to sell Ritz hotel

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A British judge sentenced a conman to five years in jail Tuesday after he was convicted of trying to sell London's famed Ritz hotel for 250 million pounds (390 million dollars, 300 million euros).

Anthony Lee, a 49-year-old unemployed lorry driver, was found guilty of an "elaborate and outrageous scam" in which he persuaded a property developer to hand over one million pounds as part of a fake deal to sell the hotel.

He had convinced potential buyer Terence Collins that he was a "close friend and associate" of the reclusive Barclay brothers, the billionaire owners of the world-famous Ritz hotel in Picadilly.

But Frederick and David Barclay had never heard of Lee and were unaware that he was trying to sell off their property, Southwark Crown Court heard.

Collins handed over the one million pounds, which was financed by a Dutch billionaire, to secure negotiations over the 2006 deal -- but the sale never happened and the money was never returned.

Lee claimed in court that the cash related to a separate property deal he had with Collins, but a jury earlier this month found him guilty of obtaining the money by deception.

"You were found guilty by a jury of this elaborate and outrageous scam, purporting to sell the Ritz hotel, thereby obtaining one million pounds from your victim," Judge Stephen Robbins said, sentencing him.

Lee was cleared of conspiracy to defraud, as was his friend, Patrick Dolan, 68. The pair's lawyer, Conn Farrell, 57, was also cleared of conspiracy.

© 2010 AFP

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