Judge orders career criminal’s house seized

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A CAREER criminal has lost a house after a court heard it was bought with the proceeds of years of theft and fraud.

A judge has ordered that any money from the sale of the property - which has not been identified for legal reasons - should be confiscated.

Brian Ellis, 46, of Royston Mains Gardens, Edinburgh, has been no stranger to the criminal courts.

But in this case the authorities used their powers under the Proceeds of Crime Act to raise a civil action at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

Mr Ellis, representing himself, contested the claim that he had used dirty money when he handed over a deposit of £17,000 plus fees of pounds £1496 in 2002 to buy the house in South Queensferry.

But in a written ruling issued today, judge Lord Burns agreed with the Crown Office’s civil recovery unit.

Their forensic accountant examined Mr Ellis’ bank accounts and other financial information and concluded there was “a black hole”.

Mr Ellis’ assets could not be accounted for by his legitimate earnings in the motor trade or from a cafe he ran in the Granton area of the city.

He also lied about his income in order to obtain a mortgage for the property he bought, the court heard.

Before reaching his decision, Lord Burns heard a number of witness describe Mr Ellis’ colourful past.

When only ten years old he was convicted of housebreaking - the first of a series of “crimes of acquisition.”

Lord Burns was told that Mr Ellis, along with partner Suzanne Gilchrist, would break into cars then go on shopping sprees with credit cards and bank cards they were able to steal.

A spate of thefts in late 2000 from a car park in Gullane, East Lothian, led police to set up Operation Essex.

The court was told that after Mr Ellis was detained, the thefts virtually stopped.

A report of Mr Ellis’ lifestyle claimed that in 2007 he owned motor cars and a home with “lavish furnishings”. At the time Mr Ellis said he was a shop-keeper but refused to say where. His girlfriend said he was unemployed.

He was not claiming benefits and not filing tax returns, the court heard.

Mr Ellis and Ms Gilchrist were enjoying a life-style “beyond that which any legitimate income they had would allow,” Lord Burns was told.

Mr Ellis income from Tea Junction in West Granton Road and the buying and selling of second hand cars under the title Ferry Cars was not enough.

Mr Ellis protested that allegations put before Lord Burns had not resulted in prosecution and asked “why not?” if the evidence against him was so strong.

He also denied that deposits made into his bank accounts - which tended to be in round figures - were linked to crime.

Mr Ellis further insisted that although he had a criminal record his previous convictions were for road traffic offences, breach of the peace and assault but not “acquisitive crime.”

The court action was brought in the name of The Scottish Ministers. The law makes them and “enforcement authority” able to recover through civil proceedings “property obtained through unlawful conduct.”

Other civil cases which have come before the Court of Session under the Proceeds of Crime Act have involved seven figure sums and, allegedly, major underworld figures.

Criminal convictions are not always necessary for the authorities to seek a recovery order to confiscate what they allege are profits of crime.

It is understood that Mr Ellis has three weeks to appeal against Lord Burns’ ruling.