Millionaire lottery winner jailed for selling stolen cars

Lee Ryan, a National Lottery millionaire, was yesterday jailed for 18 months for handling three stolen cars and ordered to pay more than pounds 60,000 compensation.

Ryan, 32, from Leicester, was convicted of handling the stolen cars last month after a five-day trial at Nottingham Crown Court but the jury was not told of his pounds 6.5m jackpot win.

Sentencing him yesterday at Leicester Crown Court, Recorder Anthony Palmer QC said: "These were sophisticated offences of handling which took a great deal of public money and police time to bring to light."

The jury was told that Ryan travelled to Malta to sell a Mercedes 500 SEL and BMW 325i cabriolet which he knew to be stolen. He was also convicted of handling a stolen Ford Transit van found outside his home when he was arrested. He denied all three charges.

His co-accused, Darren Richards, 23, was convicted of handling the stolen BMW, and jailed for six months. He was not ordered to pay compensation.

Ryan, who has a string of previous convictions dating back almost 20 years, once lived in a council house in Braunstone, near Leicester, but now owns a country manor in west Leicestershire.

He has spent several hundred thousand pounds on luxury cars since his lottery win in March, including several BMWs. He also owns a helicopter which he has been learning to fly.

Francis Evans, for the defence, told the court that Ryan was a charitable man who had recently given money to the police anonymously to help solve crimes involving children.

He added that Ryan was prepared to pay the full compensation due, including any falling on Richards.

Mr Evans said: "Even when he was not a rich man he gave what he could to worthy causes. Since winning, he has been in the fortunate position to do something he has always enjoyed doing - giving money to help children."

But the judge dismissed Mr Evans's suggestion that Ryan should serve a community service sentence.

He said: "These offences are so serious that in my opinion only a custodial sentence is justified."

During the trial the jury was told that Ryan and Richards took the two cars to Malta to sell them. Both vehicles had false number plates and forged vehicle registration forms and insurance cover notes.

They had previously wanted to sell the cars in Pakistan, where they thought they could get a better profit, but were turned back at the Iranian border during the Gulf war.

They then drove to Malta and sold the Mercedes for pounds 15,500 and the BMW for pounds 8,500.

Ryan is now due to be sentenced at Leicester Crown Court on Monday for contempt of court, after leaping out of the dock and shouting at a judge in a previous hearing.