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Wales and British Lions rugby star victim in £1m mortgage fraud led by wife

  • 12/12/2019
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Wales and British Lions rugby star victim in £1m mortgage fraud led by wife
The ex-wife and two business associates of a Wales and British Lions rugby star have admitted conducting a series of mortgage frauds worth more than £1m in the player’s name without his knowledge.


Wales and British Lions scrum half Gareth Cooper was left shocked and forced to move back in with his parents when the frauds were discovered, he told Cardiff Crown Court this week.

WalesOnline reported that he had also been made bankrupt, but this was reversed once it was confirmed he had been the victim of the scam.

The fraud was conducted by Cooper’s then-wife Debra Leyshon, his friend and business partner Simon Thomas and a colleague Mark Lee.


Failing businesses

The defendants admitted using the cash to prop up businesses Cooper had formed to support his post-playing career – Cooper Freight, No 9 Fitness and KGM Gym.

He had also bought a small portfolio of properties which were used along with the matrimonial home in the frauds.

Cooper told the court in a statement that he had formed the businesses to fund his retirement after his rugby career but had left the running of them to Leyshon and Thomas.

The pair told Cooper, who won 46 caps for Wales and was part of the 2005 British Lion tour to New Zealand, the firms were doing well, but instead were taking loans to keep them afloat.

Leyshon, 41-years-old from Bridgend, confessed to 13 counts of fraud totalling more than £1m.

Thomas, who is 47 and from the Cowbridge area, admitted involvement in two frauds totalling £380,000 and Lee, 43 from Exeter, admitted participating in one fraud worth £50,000.

The trio’s actions included impersonating Cooper in phone calls and in person and making false signatures.

They have been remanded in custody for sentencing later this week.


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