Lavish lifestyle ends in prison

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A LOCAL haulage company boss has been jailed for 18 months after helping her husband launder almost half a million pounds stolen from criminals.

Mother-of-two Derry Ellen Priestley, 48, used the money to fund a lavish lifestyle which included exotic holidays, expensive jewellery and even had a £230,000 luxury yacht named after her husband Dean, who stole the cash from the Manchester criminal underworld.

Dean Priestley, 47, of Old Mill, Bielby, was jailed for three years in March after pleading guilty at Hull Crown Court to a charge of conspiring to convert criminal property, but his wife Derry - the boss of DES International Haulage in Bielby - always denied the same charge.

She stood trial at Sheffield Crown Court was found guilty last week of conspiracy to convert criminal property.

In court, recorder Rachim Singh told Mrs Priestley: “You were a willing and enthusiastic participant in these offences.

“I have no doubt you knew what you were doing was wrong.

“After spending around £500,000 you continued with your lavish lifestyle going on three holidays to Spain, Australia and Holland.

“You continued with lavish spending on outings to London.

“You went on a least four trips to see your husband in the Lake District.

“You dined at expensive restaurants in Leeds and shopped at Harvey Nichols.

“There can be very little sympathy for you on these matters.

“Regrettably a custodial sentence is inevitable.

“This is a very serious case.”

The court heard that Mrs Priestley, formerly of Hornsea Drive, Wildsen, Bradford, visited her husband on a £230,000 luxury yacht on Lake Windermere which he bought with banker’s drafts and cash while on the run.

She received a £5,000 diamond white gold pendant and a £50,000 BMW convertible from Mr Priestley after she reported him missing to the police.

Large amounts of cash was also deposited in her bank accounts and the company’s account after her husband absconded with the money in January 2008.

The couple’s two sons also received expensive gifts including a house and a new car.

Recorder Rachim Singh told the court that Derry Priestley had not stuck to court restraining orders which ordered her not to sell the BMW or attempt to sell the Sealine motor cruiser.

He said she sold the BMW, putting £11,000 into her own account.

He said her sons and husband had the good sense to plead guilty, but she had not, in the face of overwhelming evidence against her.

A tearful Mrs Priestley told the jury that she had been threatened by two men from the Manchester underworld who were looking for her husband.

They demanded Dean’s birth and medical certificates and attacked his two sons with spray paint and an iron bar at their Bielby home.

Mrs Priestley said: “I got very depressed and suicidal.

“I was very low for a long time; after the incident took place I fled my home. I never went back except to pick up clothes.”

However, she remained in contact with her husband by mobile phone and made repeated visits to the Lake District to see him.

Mrs Priestley’s barrister Andrew Haslam said that although she had benefited from the stolen money, it had not been her offence from the outset.

He added: “Dean Priestley had a controlling hold over her.

“She has been a victim herself having witnessed her children beaten up in front of her as a result of what their father had done.”

All four members of the family face an assets recovery hearing under the Proceeds of Crime Act to seize all the criminal cash which is left.

Speaking after the case, DC Graham Duncan of Humberside Police said: “She took a risk of pleading not guilty before a trial.

“She was probably hoping for an acquittal.

“The verdict went against her and this is the result.

“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. “

DC Duncan added that it was a complex investigation because there was no victim to report the money stolen.

“This shows the power of the Proceeds of Crime Act in allowing us to bring a case for money laundering rather than theft which is what this was,” he said. “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 members of his family.”