Two thugs have been sentenced after they hatched a sinister plot to extort £15,000 from an unsuspecting victim.
Reece Roberts has been sentenced to a total of three-and-a-half years behind bars while his partner in crime Luke Haley was given 15 months suspended for two years after they were snared by detectives at Northumbria Police earlier this year.
The friends had been socialising in January when they hatched a plan to extort thousands of pounds from one of their associates.
Newcastle Crown Court heard how the victim and his mother had contacted police on January 30 to report that a business he was connected to had been set on fire.
He reported that he was then bombarded with anonymous calls demanding he hand over £15,000.
The caller, who would later be identified as Haley, claimed he would continue to burn other buildings every night until he received his lump sum.
The court was told that during the terrifying calls he also threatened to increase the debt by an extra £5,000 for each day it went unpaid.
Rather than hand over the money, the victim and his family contacted Northumbria Police who immediately launched an investigation.
A number of enquiries were carried out and soon specialist detectives from the Force’s Crime Department identified Haley and Roberts as the masterminds behind the extortion.
Officers arrested the pair a short time later and further evidence linking Haley and Roberts to the blackmail was uncovered.
The pair were both charged with blackmail and Roberts also admitted a dangerous driving charge relating to a hit and run which took place in Hetton-le-hole in February last year and on
Friday (August 14) they were sentenced at Newcastle Crown Court.
Speaking after the sentencing, Detective Chief Inspector Jane Fairlamb from Northumbria Police’s crime department said: “I am really pleased with the sentences handed down today – this is a great result and I hope it goes to show that such despicable and selfish actions will not be tolerated.
“This was a terrible ordeal for the victim and his family and no one should have to go through this. I want to thank all the officers involved for their hard work.”
Luke Haley, 22, of Waterford Green, Sunderland, was sentenced to 15 months suspended for two years with 150 hours unpaid work and ordered to pay £200 compensation.
Reece Roberts, 21, of Pallion Park, Sunderland was sentenced to three-and-a-half years behind bars with a 66 month diving ban.
Nobody was ever charged in relation to an arson at the business associated to the victim in January.
Anyone who wants to report information about blackmail, or if you are a victim, is encouraged to contact police immediately on 101 and they will be able to assist you in a sensitive manner.