Conman James McCormick sold golf ball finders as bomb detectors in £50m global scam
A millionaire businessman conned buyers around the world into thinking novelty golf ball finders were bomb detectors.
Jim McCormick, 56, was found guilty at London's Old Bailey today of three counts of fraud after jurors heard the devices did not work. McCormick made an estimated £50 million from sales of his three models to Iraq, Belgium and even the United Nations for use in Lebanon. But, the court heard, the Advanced Selection Equipment devices had no scientific basis and were based on a £13 American novelty golf ball finder.
Some of the detectors were sold for £27,000 each and McCormick is thought to have made about £37 million from sales to Iraq alone. There is no evidence that he tried to sell to the Ministry of Defence, but an MoD inspector watched a demonstration organised by an Essex policeman. The detectors were marketed to the military, police forces and governments around the world using glossy brochures and the internet. Men dressed in military-type fatigues were shown using the detectors to find explosives, drugs, fluids, ivory and people.
Richard Whittam QC, prosecuting, said fantastic claims were made that the detectors could find substances from planes, under water, under ground and through walls. They claimed to be able to bypass "all known forms of concealment" and be able to detect at distance. Items could be detected up to 0.6 miles underground, up to 3 miles from the air and 100ft underwater, it was said.
But Mr Whittam added: "The devices did not work and he knew they did not work.
"He had them manufactured so that they could be sold - and despite the fact they did not work, people bought them for a handsome but unwarranted profit. "He made them knowing that they were going to be sold as something that it was claimed was simply fantastic. You may think those claims are incredible." Mr Whittam said: "The devices that were sold were expensive. There was no fixed price but the ADE 651 could be sold for as much as 40,000 US dollars."
Experts said the ADE 651 "lacks any grounding in science, nor does it work in accordance with the known laws of physics ... completely ineffectual as a piece of detection equipment". It was no better than trying to detect explosives at random, said Mr Whittam. The devices were sold by McCormick and his companies along with training and "sensor cards", the court heard.
Mr Whittam told the jury McCormick bought 300 Golfinder novelty machines for finding golf balls from the US between 2005 and 2006. It was advertised as a "great novelty item" which used the customer's body to "energise its actions".
The forerunner of the 101 model, the 100 "was actually a golf ball finder that could be purchased in the USA for less than 20 US dollars". Mr Whittam added: "During 2007 the volume of devices required by James McCormick increased. He said this was due to a large contract he had obtained with the Iraqi government." Mr Whittam said: "The devices were sold to a number of countries. The ADE 651 was mainly for use in Iraq." They were also sold in Niger and Georgia.
|ADE-651 Detector Kit With Cards|
Sensor cards slotted into the machine were colour-coded - orange for explosives, blue for drugs and red for humans.
McCormick used an International Association of Bomb Technicians and Investigators' logo which he was not entitled to use.
After his arrest, he said he heard of the technology in 1994 and reinvented it with the hand-held devices. Using basic school physics, he came up with a mock version which worked and "the rest is history", added Mr Whittam.
McCormick had also said: "It's a phenomenon. It's been known for a number of years."
McCormick, a former policeman and salesman, told the court he sold his detectors to police in Kenya, the prison service in Hong Kong, the army in Egypt and border control in Thailand.
He said one of them had been used to check a hotel in Romania before the visit of an American president in the 90s. He said: "I never had any negative results from customers."
McCormick shook his head after the verdicts were delivered. He was remanded on conditional bail to be sentenced on May 2. Speaking outside court, detective superintendent Nigel Rock of Avon and Somerset Police described McCormick as "a conman".
He said: "We have heard evidence from many, many experts, scientists, leaders in their field, who have said this was a fraud. A sham."
"Today he (McCormick) has rightly been convicted by the jury. The investigation has been a far-reaching, complex one, done over a period of three to four years. James McCormick is a conman. He will continue to be a conman. A man who's made millions of dollars is now convicted."
He added: "That device has been used and is still being used on checkpoints. People using that device believe it works. It does not."