A scheming and calculating fraudster who conned people and businesses out of hundreds of thousands of pounds has been jailed.
Christopher Heayns, 34, from Blyth, who posed as a high-flying barrister with a multi-million-pound property portfoilio, was jailed for nine-and-a-half years following an investigation by Northumbria Police.
Detective Constable Tony Hellyer, who led the investigation into the fraudster, said: "Heayns is one of the most manipulative, scheming and dishonest people that I have ever investigated.
"The nature, audacity and sheer scale of the lies he told and the stories he fabricated in order to extort money from people, companies and businesses is astounding."
Heayns was arrested in August 2015 on suspicion of a number of fraud offences, after a call to police from his ex-girlfriend, to whom he owed hundreds of thousands of pounds.
She told detectives that she had met Heayns on a dating site in August 2013 and they started a relationship together.
He told her that his name was Christopher Smith and that he was a high flying legal barrister with a property portfolio of around £6,000,000 and a number of investments and capital at his disposal.
He claimed to have multiple successful businesses and gave the impression he was a very wealthy and successful man.
Early on in the relationship he persuaded her to help him find somewhere to live in the area and got her to take out a tenancy agreement in her name at the grade two listed manor building Sandoe Hall, in Hexham. He managed to ensure that the £2,400 monthly payments were coming from her bank account and that it was all in her name.
While living at the property he arranged to have building and renovation work done to allow him to set up new business ventures from home and racked up more than £100,000 in building work costs.
He persuaded his then girlfriend-at-the-time to cover the costs, promising her that a £250,000 investment due to mature would allow him to pay her back.
The borrowing continued with him using the woman's credit cards to borrow large amounts of money and also taking bank loans out in her name.
He even convinced the woman to borrow around £125,0000 from her parents to help him pay for different business ventures and his spending.
But in December 2013, a builder who was doing work on Sandoe Hall saw a Christmas card at the property addressed to Christopher Poulton. He became suspicious when the name didn't match.
He searched the internet and found a series of news articles from 2008 about a con-man who had been jailed for fraud offences. He flagged this up with Heayns' partner and she confronted him about it.
Again he sold her a string of lies about his past and said that he had been accused of the offences by a rival barrister but cleared on appeal.
He stressed that he wouldn't be able to be working as a barrister now if he was a criminal - and he went to great lengths to convince the woman of this lie about being a barrister - even getting her to drop him off at various court locations across the country where he said he was working.
In early 2014, the couple eventually split and Heayns promised the woman he would repay all of the money owed.
After months and months of excuses about why he couldn't pay her back, she reported him to police in May last year..
The investigation was launched into Heayns and the more officers dug into his past, the more evidence of fraudulent behaviour, deceit and lying they found.
On August 15, 2015, he was charged with 14 fraud related offences and remanded in custody.
Heayns appeared at Newcastle Crown Court on February 8 where he pleaded not guilty and after a two-week trial he was found guilty of four counts of fraud offences and seven counts of insovlency act offences.
Yesterday, he was sentenced to nine-and-a-half years in prison.
Det Con Tony Hellyer said: "People may question how people fell for his lies but I can't stress enough just how manipulative Heayns is.
"He used many different aliases and back stories. He managed to deceive business owners, banks and reputable companies into believing his lies and handing over hundreds of thousands of pounds.
"He created a very convincing fake identity and persona and played on the emotional relationship between him and his ex-girlfriend to con her and her family out of hundreds of thousands of pounds.
"He lied and cheated his way to enjoying a millionaires' lifestyle at the expense of others and has left a substantial trail of destruction behind him and a number of peoples' lives in tatters.
"He continued his deceit right until the very end by pleading not guilty to the offences and forcing his victims to have to relive the whole experience during the court case.
"Heayns was summed up perfectly when the judge described him as being the most dishonest person that he had ever come across in 40 years of practising law."