A ROGUE Falklands veteran who went on a £477,000 international spending spree after stealing £1m from crooks has been sentenced to three and a half years in prison.
Ex Royal Navy officer Dean Priestley, 47, hid their money in a wheel of his HGV, but soon decided to keep the lot, embarking on a mission to spend it in a whirlwind six months on the run.
He quickly bought a luxury £230,000 Sealine S48 motor cruiser on Lake Windermere, to hide from Manchester villains. Crooks, called Mull and Steve, told his wife they would spend £5m to find him and the £1m he stole.
In total he spent £477,000 in six months on a motor cruiser, a house, four cars, three foreign holidays for his family, and a £5,000 diamond pendant for his wife.
He was sentenced at Hull Crown Court and now faces an assets recovery hearing under the Proceeds of Crime Act to seize all the criminal cash he has left.
Priestley, a father of two, fled his own £900,000 home in a Grade II listed water mill in Bielby. He quickly opened bank accounts in his privately-educated son’s names and began depositing thousands in stolen cash.
Days after he vanished he called his wife and said: “I have done something really bad. I am going to have to stay away for a long time.”
At the time Dean Priestley was being hunted by the police he was also wanted for extradition to France after being convicted, in his absenc,e of cannabis smuggling in his lorry. In 1999 he was jailed for three years and nine months for attempting to import £15 million worth of cannabis into Britain.
A jury at Hull Crown court heard details of the latest astonishing crime as his wife Derry Priestley, 48, stood trial denying she helped him launder criminal cash.
Crown barrister Timothy Capstick said Priestley’s empire came crashing down when he was arrested by police exiting a Leeds Hotel where he was registered as staying under his brother’s name. Police were aware that Manchester criminals had put a put a price on his head.
The jury took less than 60-minutes to find Derry Priestley, the boss of DES International Haulage Ltd, guilty of conspiracy to launder money, a charge of attempting to convert criminal property and a charge of converting criminal property. She stood stone-faced with no emotion as the verdicts of guilty were read out.
Her luxury home in Bielby, which the family had a mortgage on, has since been re-possesed and sold on.
Before the start of the four-day trial, recorder Rachim Singh told Mrs Priestley if she had pleaded guilty he would have jailed her for a maximum of 18 months. After the jury verdict he said would adjourn for a pre-sentence report.
Dean Priestley along with his sons James Priestley, 23, Nathan Priestley 22, and nephews Simon Taylor, 35, and Christopher Taylor, 32, all pleaded guilty to conspiring to convert criminal property before the start of the trial. Dean Priestley was jailed for three and a half years at Hull Crown Court in March. His sons and two nephews received suspended prison sentences.
Speaking after the case, DC Graham Duncan of Humberside Police said: “This is the first case I have come across in 25 years of someone who allegedly stole £1m from criminals and has not given it back.
“Our enquiries showed Dean Priestley was spending money like it was going out of fashion. He has shown a brass neck to the criminals he stole money from and shown no remorse.
“It was a crime motivated by temptation and greed which has led to the involvement of other member of his family. He had very little assets before.”
Recorder Singh will sentence Derry Priestley at Sheffield Crown Court on 19 October. He ordered a Proceeds of Crime hearing for all the Priestleys should take place at Hull Crown Court on 19 December. Mrs Priestley and her sons now live at secret addresses.
Nathan Priestley, a semi-pro rugby player, was given a 12-month suspended prison sentence and 200 hours unpaid work in the community.
Law student James Priestley received a nine month suspended sentence and 180-hours unpaid work.
Simon Taylor, of Southcroft Avenue, Birkenshaw, Bradford, received a four-month suspended prison sentence and 200-hours unpaid work and Christopher Taylor, of Weavers Lane Cullingworth, Bradford, received a three-month suspended sentence with 150-hours unpaid work.