A FORMER business associate of the investment firm that took over Bolton Wanderers has been jailed for his part in an extensive loan and mortgage fraud racket.

Michael Collins, of Leigh Road in Westhoughton, was one of the minor conspirators in a property ruse carried out in The Potteries.

Before he could finally be brought to trial he spent six months in prison for contempt of court for faking health problems to try to frustrate proceedings.

Collins was involved at one time with Dean Holdsworth's Sports Shield Investments (SSI) as it entered into negotiations to take control of the Whites — although he never held an official position with either the company or club and his link with SSI was severed before the takeover deal was struck.

The 31-year-old was convicted of conspiracy to commit fraud and production of fraudulent documents at a trial at Warwick Crown Court last month and was jailed for four years and three months on Friday.

Collins was described in court as the "commercial loan broker" and the "conduit" between main player Mehboob Akhtar, also known as Saint Pirwali Pandariman, and his daughter Rushbamani Akhtar.

Staffordshire Constabulary's investigation with Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) focused on the financing of 70 different properties, both commercial and residential, in the Fenton area of Stoke-on-Trent.

During the lengthy investigation it came to light that mortgages obtained in Akhtar's name were fraudulent and he had lied on application forms about his earnings, his address, his marital status and his dependants.

Not only did Akhtar build a buy-to-let property portfolio, but fraudulently acquired several properties for his family — including a house called Rosedale whose purchase Collins was involved in.

Collins was also involved in fraudulent activity to secure loans.

Detective Chief Inspector Phil Duffy, of Staffordshire Police, said: "The sentencing brings a successful conclusion to a very long and complex investigation by a small team of dedicated officers and staff who were determined to see justice done.

"I'm pleased to say that wealth and influence in this case did not bring immunity from prosecution."

Gary Forbes, assistant director of the Fraud Investigation Service at HMRC, said: "Working closely with Staffordshire Police, this is the culmination of a painstaking investigation into a crime gang who thought they were above the law."

Collins was the last of 10 defendants to be tried and sentenced. He stood trial alone after completing a prison term for contempt of court over his efforts to frustrate the original proceedings.

Staffordshire Police said in a statement: "He went to great efforts to avoid the initial trial, claiming he was unable to travel to Birmingham as he had kidney stones.

"An independent medical examination disapproved this and he was jailed for six months."