A transgender pensioner has been jailed for five years after being convicted of fraudulently tricking people out of hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Bald Frances Harris, previously known as Frederick, promised people financial rewards for investing life savings and pensions - but pocketed the cash.

He falsely claimed an unnamed company was backed by millionaires including racing breeder and Sunday Times Rich List member David Thompson.

The 74-year-old also sold fake shares in a company which did not exist called The Golden Age Project he claimed was based in Spain.

The partially-deaf 74-year-old from Dudeney Lodge, Hollingdean, Brighton, also claimed £27,000 in illegal benefits by using his dead sister Pamela's passport to make fraudulent claims.

Pamela died in a car crash in the 1960s.

At least 25 people lost their life-savings and pensions after falling for Harris's lies. In total he gained about £130,000, although his 'colleagues' made more.

Harris was working alongside husband and wife couple Rosemary Nye, 50, of Butlers Green Road, Haywards Heath, and Graham Lewis, 50, of Firlands, Haywards Heath.

They used their illegal gains - Nye £318,000 and Lewis £386,000 - to go on honeymoon in Dubai, go on holiday in Spain and give Nye's children driving lessons, Lewes Crown Court was told yesterday (WED).

Harris was sentenced for seven dishonesty counts, Nye for seven dishonesty counts and Lewis for 12 dishonesty counts.

At court yesterday mother-of-two Nye was spared jail and given a two-year prison sentence, suspended for two years. She was also ordered to carry out 80 hours unpaid work and take part in a probation programme.

Lewis was jailed for four-and-a-half years.

Full details of the case are only able to be revealed now after a banning order was lifted by the court.

Defending Harris, Nicholas Fooks (COR) said Harris, who has been undergoing gender reassignment treatment to change from a man to a woman had lost one of his three daughters and also had cancer, which had affected his life.

“He cannot complete the physical change from a man into a woman,” Mr Fooks said.

“Prison was pretty difficult. Harris was classed as a vulnerable patient.

“The prison is trying its best to protect him but it's impossible to protect him 24 hours a day.”

Sentencing the trio, Judge Shani (COR) Barnes said they had a “disregard” for who they deceived.

She added: “Frances Harris you were the head of this.

“It was a sophisticated and long-term fraud.”