Brothers targeted Derbyshire firms in ‘vicious’ £500K extortion racket

Nottingham Crown Court
Nottingham Crown Court

Derbyshire company bosses are to receive £29,500 compensation from three brothers who ran an extortion racket.

The payout was ordered by a judge who ordered the confiscation of £552,502 from the trio.

They were said to have made £685,310 in a decade of crime.

The men were convicted of blackmail related charges and started by targeting a small firm in Ilkeston, demanding £29,000 in protection money, a court heard.

When the owner refused, plant hire equipment was stolen to back up their threats.

Then a Heanor skip hire firm’s lorry vanished and the gang demanded £1,500 for its return. The business owner called Derbyshire police but withdrew the complaint when he received another threatening visit.

The three Nottingham brothers admitted a range of offences two years ago and all are serving prison terms. At Nottingham Crown Court on Friday, a claim was completed under proceeds of crime laws.

This declared their profits and classed the £552,502 as the “available amount.” Some had been seized from bank accounts, some was linked to property and some in goods.

Judge James Sampson banned the trio from contacting their victims and also imposed a serious crime prevention order, after outlining concerns about the risks they pose when freed.

Gang leader David Lowther, 36, is serving nine years prison and the court decided that he made £248,869 from crime. He must repay £183,759. Eight year terms were imposed on his brothers John, 39, and 34-year-old Luke.

Judge James Sampson said: “I am satisfied the defendants have a criminal lifestyle and there is a very high risk when released they will continue to offend in a similar way.

“Blackmail is one of the ugliest, most vicious crimes in the criminal calendar, rightly loathed and condemned by the public.

“This had some characteristics of a protection racket. Money was extorted. Local businessmen were - to use the vernacular - taxed and terrorised.”

There were threats to torch cars and homes while people feared violence when seeing “well chosen gestures like a finger across the throat.”

The judge said it was difficult to decide whether the trio are illiterate, as their lawyers suggested, and added: “They are not stupid individuals, they are wily and in some way quite successful in acquiring wealth one way or another.”

David Lowther, formerly of Cedar Road, Forest Fields admitted conspiracy to commit blackmail, perverting the course of justice, intimidation and trying to conceal criminal money.

Blackmail and other charges were admitted by John Lowther, 39, then of Middle Crescent, Aspley, and Luke Lowther, 34, then of Thames Street, Bulwell. The court heard that John profited by £263,719 and had £198,202 clawed back.

Luke’s profit was put at £172,722 and he must repay £170,540.

Ben Isaacs, prosecuting, said that the gang’s victims had requested the protection provided by the court order, which runs for five years after their release from jail.

Ivan Krolick, who represented John and Luke, had opposed the order. He criticised the Crown Prosecution Service, saying that it should have sought the restrictions two years ago.

Marcus Harry, who represented David, said that the order had complex terms when referring to registering mobile phones and computers.

“These are men whose level of literacy is not at the level of anyone at the bar and I would have to research it,” added Mr Harry.