A would-be MP has been jailed for defrauding students and their families out of more than £20,000.
Vincent McKee, 54, was sentenced at Coventry Crown Court on Friday after being convicted of 25 counts of fraud by a jury after a six-week trial.
The court heard that McKee, who ran a student tuition firm in Coventry, stole around £23,000 from clients and their families by using their bank card details between October 2009 and January 2011.
Sentencing McKee, who stood for the Liberal Democrats in Coventry North West in 2010, Judge Peter Carr said: "You were in charge of a business which offered tuition to people who needed it to pass important examinations such as A-levels and university degree courses.
"They were already at a stressful time in their lives."
He added: "There were many people who couldn't afford to be without the money you took."
Jailing McKee for two and a half years, the judge told him: "There can be no other sentence but imprisonment for this persistent fraud.
"They all placed their trust in you, you breached that trust."
The court heard that McKee had refunded only around a third of the money he had stolen and only after clients complained.
Prosecutor Ben Mills said: "He only stopped taking money from their accounts when he was caught out by them. He would have taken more if he had had the opportunity."
The court heard that McKee was "aggressive, abusive and bullying" towards clients when they queried money being taken from their accounts without their authorisation.
But the judge said he was content that McKee had not set up the firm with the aim of defrauding people and that his motive for stealing the money was to cope with his own financial difficulties.
The way McKee, who admitted a charge of engaging in commercial practise without professional diligence during the trial, ran his business was "shambolic and dishonest", the judge went on.
He disqualified McKee from being a director of a company for seven years.
The court heard that McKee, who stared straight ahead in the dock today, ignored advice and warnings given by Coventry Trading Standards and friends.
In mitigation, Chris Henley, defending McKee, said the father-of-one was ill-equipped to run a business and would be concentrating on his writing career in future.
Henley said the trial had been a "humiliating experience" for McKee, who had "fallen a long way".
The jury was unable to reach verdicts on nine other fraud charges and one of perverting the course of justice. Judge Carr said these would remain on McKee's file.
McKee was jailed for two and a half years for the fraud for which he was convicted. He was also handed a six-month concurrent sentence after pleading guilty to engaging in commercial practice without professional diligence.
The judge said he would serve half the sentence before being released on licence.
Speaking after the sentencing, Nigel Wooltorton, fraud and financial investigations manager, Coventry City Council trading standards, who led the council's investigation, said McKee had received verbal and written advice and warnings from them.
Wooltorton said: "In June 2010 McKee personally signed a written undertaking with trading standards to give written agreements, clearly state the full price and give refunds where due, in 30 days.
"The court heard evidence that despite this, offences continued to take place."
He warned people to be vigilant when passing on credit and debit card details over the phone or internet.
"Consumers who agree a contract over the phone or on the internet should insist on receiving information in writing about the agreement from the trader by email or letter.
"This should include amongst other information the full price to pay and cancellation rights.
"Our advice is for people to always be vigilant especially when passing on credit card or bank details," Mr Wooltorton added.
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