Source: This is Lancashire
8:15am Thursday 4th March 2010
A FORMER semi-professional footballer has been jailed for two years after admitting working as a loan shark.
Tony Cullen, aged 36, of Myrtle Grove, Whitefield, was sentenced at Manchester Crown Court, alongside five other family members involved in a complex and long-running swindle.
The catalogue of fraud was exposed after Tony Cullen’s brother David, aged 30, from Salford, was jailed for 10 years for robbing a bank in 2006. A probe into his luxury lifestyle revealed he bought a house in Scott Road, Prestwich, for £100,000 with a cash deposit of £40,000.
He also bought a Harley Davison pick-up truck for about £23,000 and an £8,000 Fiat Stylo for his girlfriend Natasha Smyth, who was herself fraudulently claiming benefits.
The court heard David Cullen ran money through the accounts of Tony and his brother, Arron of Rydal Grove, Whitefield, because they were both working.
Tony Cullen was once on the books of Premier League sides Aston Villa and Blackburn Rovers and also played for Radcliffe Borough.
He joined semi-professional team FC United of Manchester when it formed in July 2005, playing home matches at Gigg Lane, Bury.
The player became the club’s first reserve team manager in 2006, but left United before these charges were brought.
Tony Cullen admitted earning £8,000 a month on the interest from unlicensed loans.
He drove a £30,000 Range Rover Vogue previously owned by Manchester United player Ryan Giggs.
Tony Cullen’s girlfriend, Christina Williamson, drove a £26,000 Volkswagen Toureg. Police found jewellery at their home worth £50,000. Tony Cullen admitted money laundering, running an illegal money lending business and conspiracy to commit benefit fraud. Williamson was given a 12-month suspended jail term and 250 hours of community service.
David Cullen admitted 13 counts of money laundering and a charge of conspiracy to defraud benefits and possessing a false passport. He was jailed for an additional three years.
Their mother, Bernadette Cullen, aged 55, of Higher Broughton, admitted conspiracy to defraud, two charges of dishonestly, making false statements and converting or concealing criminal property. She was jailed for 15 months.
Aaron Cullen, aged 27, admitted money laundering and was jailed for two years. Smyth admitted money laundering and benefit fraud and was given a 12-month suspended prison sentence.