FRAUDSTERS who conned £300,000 from a number of recruitment companies have been ordered to pay back less than half of their ill-gotten gains.

Jason Brown and Norman King, from Hood Manor and Old Hall respectively, designed an elaborate payroll scam which targeted more than 20 businesses – nearly bankrupting two.

On Monday, August 5, they were told to give back £140,000 to their victims at Chester Crown Court.

A Cheshire Police investigation began in November 2013 after three recruitment agencies based in Warrington reported they had fallen victim to their pair – suffering losses in excess of £225,000.

Fifty-year-old King and 46-year-old Brown claim they were managing directors of companies to which they had no associations and registered a number of fake employees with recruitment agencies using stolen ID documents.

The conmen then submitted fraudulent timesheets to falsely claim wages.

An ensuing investigation involved more than 100 witnesses, and revealed that a total of 21 other companies across the UK had been targeted.

In total, Brown and King stole £295,681.97.

Both admitted multiple fraud offences in 2017 with Brown, of Worcester Close, jailed for two-and-a-half years and King, of Nansen Close, handed two years and three months behind bars.

They were hauled back before judges this week for a hearing under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

The court heard that the pair had earned more than £2million between them during their criminal careers.

Brown was ordered to pay back £80,000 he made through the scam, while King will be required to return £60,000.

Each will face further time behind bars if this money is not repaid within three months.

Detective constable Paul Myatt said: “Brown and King embarked on a crime spree, becoming wealthy men through defrauding victims across the UK.

“They showed no regard for the harm they caused to their victims, putting the livelihoods of a number of decent hard-working people at risk and even nearly bankrupting two of the companies.

“Although it was satisfying to bring the criminal case to conclusion, it is even more satisfying depriving Brown and King of their criminal assets and providing compensation to the victims in this case.

“I hope this spreads the message that crime really doesn’t pay, and that any penalties invoked by the Proceeds of Crime Act will stay with offenders for life.”