Four fraudsters who conned betting shops out of more than £600,000 using laminated money to trick self-service machines have been sentenced.

The men committed 168 frauds by feeding plastic-coated £20 and £50 notes into betting slots in order to register a deposit, before using a plastic lead to pull the note back out before it was taken.

Thomas Wheatcroft, 40, Charlie Shaw, 33, Michael Sadgove-Tarrant, 37, and Paul Hubbold, 59, targeted Ladbrokes and Coral stores across the country including Essex and London.

An investigation was launched after several reports of staff at stores across the UK finding thousands of pounds was missing when they were cashing up machines.

When officers arrested Wheatcroft, Shaw and Sadgove-Tarrant in Basildon, Essex, they found bags of clothing that included 20 baseball caps.

CCTV footage from different shops showed the group responsible for the thefts had been wearing the same clothing.

The total loss to Ladbrokes and Coral has been £663,556, police say.

At Kingston Crown Court on Monday, November 22, all the defendants pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud and were given lifetime bans from going into any betting shops.

  • Thomas Wheatcroft, of Portsmouth, was sentenced to four years and three months' imprisonment.
  • Charlie Shaw, of Portsmouth, was sentenced to two years' imprisonment.
  • Michael Sadgove-Tarrant, of Portsmouth, was sentenced to one year imprisonment, suspended for two years.
  • Paul Hubbold, of Barrow-in-Furness, was sentenced to nine months' imprisonment, suspended for 18 months.

Detective Constable Kevin Parley, who worked on the case, said: "The substantial sums of money stolen by the group is a significant loss to the businesses these men had targeted.

"We worked closely with security officials from both firms to carry out a joint investigation, which included gathering evidence to bring forward a robust case against the four men.

"I am pleased that Wheatcroft and Shaw, who were the main offenders, received custodial sentences, and I hope this provides some relief for the companies who have been affected by their actions."