A BARNSLEY man who masterminded what's thought to have been the country’s biggest ever cheque scam has been handed a nine-year jail term.

Bradford Crown Court heard Onais Hove, 43, of Hallowdene, Gawber, was one of two ringleaders of a criminal gang which stole and fraudulently manufactured millions of pounds worth of bank cheques.

Together with co-ringleader Charles Nyongo, also 43, Hove intercepted completed cheques in the post, which they then altered, or photographed blank ones using smartphones to capture the legitimate details which they used to create fake cheques.

About £6.5 million worth of stolen and fake cheques were seized in police raids following an investigation by the Dedicated Cheque and Plastic Crime Unit (DCPCU).

The gang’s victims included hospices, schools, golf clubs and the elderly.

Both men pleaded not guilty but were convicted by the jury.

Det Chief Insp Perry Stokes, head of the DCPCU, said: "We have dismantled a highly organised and professional fraud gang - one of the largest of its kind ever seen in the UK.

"Hove and Nyongo were ruthlessly indiscriminate in selecting their victims."