A FRAUDSTER who conned two debt collection firms out of more than £110,000 was spared prison thanks to his work helping the homeless.

Peter Hill, of Oxford Grove in Bolton, was sentenced at Bolton Crown Court today over the sophisticated scheme he ran with his accomplice, Rahman Sharif.

He had originally been set to be sentenced in February after pleading guilty to four offences but the sentence was deferred until today.

Judge Timothy Stead had previously said that if Hill, aged 45, kept himself out of trouble until today's hearing he would 'keep his liberty'.

He was handed a two year prison sentence for each of the three counts of fraud and the charge of transferring criminal property, to be served concurrently, which were all suspended for 12 months.

Hill, along with Sharif who will be sentenced at a later date, had exploited a loophole in the systems operated by two debt recovery firms, Swift PLC and Proserve between April 1 and June 30 2014.

The pair would pretend to be owed money in arrears and then passed the responsibility for recovering the alleged debts to the two companies, handing over credit card details that they had obtained from people illegally.

When the firms claimed the owed money they immediately paid out to two made-up companies, Z to Z and P and M, "operated" by Hill and Sharif, and the banks later declined the payments, leaving the debt companies in arrears.

In total, Hill acquired £54,265 from Swift and along with Sharif, a further £50,030 from the company.

A further £6,123 was obtained from Proserve.

The court heard how Hill had a gambling problem and was no longer in possession of his share of the money that they obtained.

Hugh McKee, defending Hill, spoke of the work that he has done in the community, volunteering with Urban Outreach in Bolton, since the original sentencing hearing.

He said: "He has been part of the Outreach Program. They served out 2,234 meals to the homeless and he was part of that team.

"He is working. He has some debts still in arrears. He is getting there. He is hoping to continue working."

When sentencing Hill, Judge Stead said that he had a 'poor record' of dishonesty offences and described these fraud offences as 'sophisticated'.

Sharif, of Keswick Avenue, Gatley, Stockport was also meant to be sentenced today, after admitting two counts of fraud and one of transferring criminal property, but this was put back as he has other matters before Liverpool Crown Court tomorrow. A proceeds of crime hearing was also set to be held today but this has been put back to September.