Devon

Apprentice contestant Christopher Farrell admits fraud

Christopher Farrell leaving Plymouth Magistrates Court
Image caption Christopher Farrell pleaded guilty to fraud

A former contestant on BBC's The Apprentice altered mortgage applications to boost his monthly earnings, a court has heard.

Mortgage broker Christopher Farrell, 29, inflated clients' incomes to help them secure home loans - and earn himself commission.

He pleaded guilty at Plymouth Magistrates' Court to fraud and will be sentenced on 28 January.

Farrell, of Upton, Wirral, was fired in week eight of The Apprentice.

'You're fired'

Prosecutor David Gittins told the court: "Christopher Farrell started working as a mortgage and insurance adviser with the company, Mortgages for Plymouth, in November 2007 until he was told: 'You're fired' in August 2009.

"After that he took part in the BBC programme The Apprentice until he was fired from that in November."

Mr Gittins explained to the court that Farrell, who earned a salary of £1,600 a month, would make commission if he reached sales targets.

Image caption Farrell was a former Royal Marines sniper

But, keen to earn more money to support his wife and young family, Farrell started inflating the incomes of clients to ensure their mortgage applications were successful - thereby reaching the sales target.

Farrell, who admitted four charges of fraud, would either alter P60 forms or payslips to show his clients in a more favourable light to a mortgage lender or create fake documents, magistrates were told.

In one instance, he made an application for a client with a £40,000 salary which showed he earned £120,000 a year.

Mr Gittins told the court: "He altered the monthly pay slips and the Halifax approved that mortgage application but a forged signature was spotted."

Mr Gittins added: "The clients had no knowledge of what he did."

Magistrates decided their powers of sentence were insufficient and committed Farrell to Plymouth Crown Court to be sentenced on January 28.

The court was also told that Farrell had two previous convictions for possessing an offensive weapon.

He admitted the two charges in September 2009 before filming The Apprentice after police found an extendable baton and a knuckleduster in his Mercedes.

'Killer instinct'

He was given a two-year conditional discharge and was ordered to pay £847 costs.

Farrell, who wore a dark pinstripe suit, light-blue shirt with dark blue tie and grey coat and scarf, held a copy of The Times newspaper over his face to hide from photographers as he left court.

The former Royal Marine was fired from The Apprentice but made a guest appearance on Sunday night's final to help Stella English create an alcoholic drink and win the competition.

Earlier in the series, Farrell said he was "a sniper in the Royal Marines and I take that killer instinct across into business".

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