Salesman facing 10 years over visa fraud

A former Norfolk double glazing salesman faces up to 10 years in a United States prison after he claimed he could help British people start new lives in Florida - and then tried to create fake visas for them.

A former Norfolk double glazing salesman faces up to 10 years in a United States prison after he claimed he could help British people start new lives in Florida - and then tried to create fake visas for them.

Michael Leggett, 52, who used to run Hellesdon-based Farmhouse Windows and Conservatories, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit visa fraud in the United States.

Leggett set up a company called Royal Development in Florida and took thousands of pounds from people whom he led to believe he could arrange lawful visas for them to live in the Sunshine State.

But the US Embassy in London became suspicious and investors, some of whom said they had lost up to $150,000 (£77,000), never got their documents for their dream move.

Leggett was arrested at his home near the town of St Cloud in Osceola County, Florida, after allegedly using forged signatures and fake addresses and phone numbers to try to secure visas for Britons via his company.

He was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit visa fraud based on fraudulent applications he filed to obtain US visas and lawful permanent residence for himself.

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He also faced a second charge based on his efforts to obtain US visas for UK citizens seeking to reside in Florida.

He pleaded guilty to both charges before US District Magistrate Judge Karla Spalding and faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison for each count, a $250,000 fine, and three years of supervised release.

Leggett has also agreed to pay restitution to the victims and could be removed from the US as a result of his conviction.

The court heard how he submitted fraudulent documentation in support of his own applications for US visas and lawful permanent residence, including a false lease for a then non-existent US company, altered advertisements for a failed UK company, and an altered incorporation document for the same UK company.

He also admitted to filing at least 12 fraudulent investor visa applications on behalf of other UK citizens who were clients of his company Royal Development.

Leggett told investigators he came up with the idea of selling business to Britons which would enable them to get coveted E2 visas in January 2003 - the same month his Norfolk business Farmhouse Windows and Conservatories went into liquidation.

Leggett, who still owns a property in Brick Kiln Road, Hevingham, left Norwich in 2002 after his conservatory and double glazing business went bust - owing thousands of pounds to more than 40 customers and leaving

many with half-built conservatories.

Father-of-three Anthony Betts, one of many people owed money by Leggett, told the Evening News in December how he lost his house and his marriage broke up after being crippled by financial debts as a result of Leggett's business going into liquidation.

Mr Betts, who now rents a council flat in Heathgate, Norwich, is owed £88,000 by Leggett and appealed for other victims to join forces to get their money back.

"That man has cost me a fortune and I want Mr Leggett stopped and I want to get my money back," he said.

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