Former Nigel Farage aide jailed for fraud in the US

Nigel Farage and former aide George Cottrell

A former aide to Nigel Farage has been jailed for eight months in the US after pleading guilty to fraud.

George Cottrell, 23, known as George Cotrel in federal court documents, has been in custody since his arrest in Chicago in July.

He pleaded guilty to a charge of wire fraud on December 19 after admitting attempting to defraud criminals on the “dark web” by masquerading as a money launderer.

At a district court in Phoenix, Arizona, judge Diane Humetewa sentenced Cottrell to eight months and ordered him to pay $30,000 (€28,400).

Cottrell will receive credit for time served dating back to his arrest on July 22, a Department of Justice spokesman said.

The former UKIP aide was involved in a scheme to steal money by posing as a professional money launderer on the “dark web”, court documents show.

Undercover agents, claiming to be drug dealers with large amounts of cash to conceal, began communicating with Cottrell in March 2014 after responding to an advert for money laundering services.

Cottrell, calling himself “Bill”, used encrypted instant messages to propose ways he could “disguise their drug profits, evade federal income taxes, and promote the continuation of their drug business”, court documents show.

He met the agents in Las Vegas in April 2014 where he told them to send $20,000 to his “associate in Colorado”, who would convert the cash to Bitcoin, a type of digital currency.

But the associate – who was prosecuted for an unrelated matter in Colorado – stole the money instead of passing it along to Cottrell, according to court documents.

Cottrell was arrested as he and Mr Farage travelled back to Britain following a trip to the US.

Mr Farage later distanced himself from his ex-aide and described him as “a volunteer”.
The politician told ITV’s Good Morning Britain shortly after Cottrell’s arrest: “Listen, I can’t be responsible for what everyone around me does.”

The US District Attorney’s Office said there was no evidence to show Cottrell engaged in the money laundering scheme but he showed “a clear intent and significant effort … to use his knowledge and financial sector experience to engage in, and to conceal, criminal activity”.

Cottrell’s uncle, Lord Hesketh, a former hereditary peer, worked for former prime minister Margaret Thatcher before losing his seat in the Lords in 1999 as a result of the House of Lords Act. He later defected to UKIP.

Cottrell’s mother, Fiona Cottrell, is the daughter of another peer.

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