An Irish traveller blackmailed two Westcountry horse dealers out of thousands of pounds after convincing them he was an IRA hit man who would shoot them unless they paid up, a court heard.
Terrence McGinley devised an elaborate charade to persuade the two victims that he was a former terrorist who would not hesitate to use violence, Exeter Crown Court was told.
He invented trumped up demands for money from the two men and told them that the debt to him would grow at the rate of £1,000 a day and he or his Irish friends would kill them if they defied him.
McGinley, 30, used the alias of Paul Maguire and worked with smallholder Joseph Beach, 31, who helped him set up the deception.
Beach, from Winscombe, Somerset, pretended to call up a contact in the equestrian world in Ireland in the presence of the victims to ask about Maguire. In reality he was calling up McGinley, who warned the victims that they had to pay up because Maguire was a very dangerous man.
McGinley, of Bridie's Cot Caravan site, near Lewes, Sussex, admitted conspiracy to blackmail and will be sentenced later. Beach has already been jailed for two-and-a-half years.
Judge Francis Gilbert, QC, adjourned the case for a special hearing to establish McGinley's role in the plot, after he said he was not the main instigator. Emily Pitts, prosecuting, said the first victim, a 51-year-old businessman from South East Cornwall, paid £3,000 but went to the police when McGinley demanded £9,000 more. The second, a 76-year-old Exmoor farmer, went straight to the police rather than handing over the cash.
She said: "The Cornish victim received a call from a man who said he was Paul Maguire who said he represented the IRA and had bought a debt from another horse dealer.
"He demanded £3,000 by the following day or it would be increased to £4,000. He took the threat seriously and went to a friend for advice, and that man made inquiries with Joseph Beach.
"Unknown to either of them, Beach was working in collusion with McGinley and a phone call was made to an Irish individual who indicated they should take the threats very seriously.
"As a result of what they were told the victims arranged to pay over the £3,000.
"The dealer from Cornwall was then told the debt had been passed on again and he would have to pay a further £9,000 at which point he reported it to the police.
"His friend then received a threatening call from Maguire demanding what was said to be a fine of £5,000 and more threats were made. These were violent threats made to someone in their mid 70s which were taken very seriously and caused extreme upset to those involved."