London (CNN) — The maker of a fake bomb detector that investigators say put lives at risk was sentenced Thursday to 10 years in prison by a London court.
James McCormick, 57, marketed his ADE 651 units to government agencies and private companies around the world, including in Iraq, with sales exceeding $50 million by his own admission.
However, independent tests showed the device has no better than a random chance of finding a golf ball, much less a bomb.
British police say the device — the ADE standing for “Advanced Detection Equipment” — is really a novelty golf-ball finder with the label removed.
Judge Richard Hone at the Old Bailey court said he was taking the rare step of passing the maximum possible sentence because of McCormick’s “cavalier disregard for the potentially fatal consequences of his fraudulent activity.”
McCormick was convicted last month on three counts of fraud.
He was sentenced to 10 years on each of the counts, to run concurrently. Half of the 10-year term must be served before he’s eligible for release on parole, the judge said.
While specific cases of death or injury as a result of the use of the devices can’t be proved, their sale was a “callous confidence trick,” the judge said.
“The jury found that you knew the devices did not work, yet the soldiers in Iraq and elsewhere believed in them, in part due to your powers of salesmanship and in part the extravagant and fraudulent claims made in your promotional material.
“After a six-week trial, I am wholly satisfied that your fraudulent conduct in selling so many useless devices for simply enormous profit promoted a false sense of security and in all probability materially contributed to causing death and injury to innocent individuals.”
Explaining his decision to hand McCormick the maximum possible sentence, the judge focused on the scale of the fraud and its potentially deadly consequences.
McCormick was the driving force and sole director of his company, ATSC, and with a small number of employees sold well over 7,000 devices to the Iraqi government and other international agencies for between $2,500 and $30,000 per unit, the judge said.
One invoice showed total sales in excess of $38 million to Iraq over a period of nearly three years, he added.
Police investigators believe it cost McCormick less than $60 to make each device.
In some places, the fake detectors remain in use and are a continuing danger to life, Hone said.
“Soldiers, police forces, border customs officers, hotel security staff and many other users trusted their lives to the overpriced devices sold by you, which were no more than plastic components with a disconnected antenna with a capability of detecting explosives no better than random chance,” he said.
“Your profits were obscene, funding grand houses, a greedy and extravagant lifestyle and even a yacht.”
McCormick also has shown no remorse for his actions, the judge said.
He made millions from the sale of the devices and used the proceeds to fund a luxurious lifestyle.
Ahead of the sentencing, a defense lawyer for McCormick told the court that there was no evidence that vehicles carrying bombs passed through checkpoints where his devices were in use.
McCormick was not responsible for any attacks, his lawyer said, and any number of devices could not protect the people of Iraq.
Superintendent Nigel Rock, of Avon and Somerset Police, told reporters outside the court that the next step for investigators would be to ensure that all the proceeds from McCormick’s criminal activities are seized.
Rock described him as a shameless con-man who had personally pocketed millions of dollars from his scam.
But it wasn’t just a good sales line that allowed McCormick, over a 10-year period, to become wealthy from a fraudulent device.
An Iraqi general has been jailed for procuring the ADE 651 through “unauthorized” channels. British police believe that McCormick paid off officials to buy the ADE 651 in bulk.