A COUPLE from Inverclyde behind a huge fraud have been jailed for a total of over 13 years after what’s believed to have been the longest criminal trial in UK legal history.

Edwin McLaren, 52, orchestrated the £1.6m property fraud scheme, which involved duping victims in financial difficulty to sign over their homes.

Prosecutors said he preyed on vulnerable people and arranged for the title deeds of their homes to be transferred to his associates without the victims’ knowledge.

He was found guilty of 29 charges in May following a trial at the High Court in Glasgow which began back in September 2015.

He was yesterday sentenced to 11 years in jail as many of his victims watched on from the public gallery.

His wife Lorraine, 51, was found guilty of two charges, involving a fraudulent mortgage application on their own home in Quarrier’s Village.

She was sentenced to two-and-a-half years behind bars.

As a financial adviser, police said Edwin McLaren had the background knowledge to put together and execute the scheme.

Through adverts in the national press for companies advertising as property or home sale solutions, he targeted people in financial distress as a result of family bereavement, debt or illness.

He would either offer to buy their house or lend them money and in return, he would get what he would say was a part-share ownership of their property.

But in fact, their properties were being transferred wholesale to the names of others, unknown to them, meaning they lost the title deeds to their homes.

Passing sentence, Judge Lord Stewart said: “The evidence shows frankly breathtaking dishonesty in every aspect of your enterprise.

“The jury have found you an outright liar.”

During the scheme, Edwin McLaren is said to have enjoyed an extravagant lifestyle, with four cars, including a Bentley, and holidays in Dubai.

The judge said: “It appears your motivation was to secure funds from mortgage lenders to fund an affluent lifestyle.”

In mitigation, his defence lawyer Mark Moir said McLaren was a first time offender and that the length of the trial had contributed to mental health issues.

He said McLaren maintains his innocence.

In mitigation for Lorraine McLaren, lawyer Kevin McCallum said that her husband had a ‘controlling role in financial matters’.

He said there was no evidence she was involved in defrauding vulnerable people, describing Edwin McLaren as the driving force of the scheme.

Lord Stewart said the mortgage was financed by her husband’s property fraud and the jury must have found she knew money transferred into her bank account came from the proceeds of crime.

He added: “Anything less than 30 months in custody would fail to reflect the criminality involved.”