A DRIVING instructor who conned his clients out of nearly £250,000 has been jailed.

Dennis Whitfield spun a web of lies to dupe his pupils into giving him cash - even going so far as to deceive one victim into believing he was using the money to buy her expensive medication to fight cancer, when in fact he was buying her cheap vitamin pills and pocketing large swathes of cash.

Whitfield, aged 66, of Horbury Drive, Bury, pleaded guilty to eight counts of fraud by false representation when he appeared before Bolton Crown Court today.

He was sentenced to 40 months in prison.

A qualified driving instructor for 37 years, Whitfield had got himself into debt and was effectively stealing money from clients to pay off debts he had racked up by deceiving other clients.

In total, he conned £244,000 out of the eight clients through a variety of different stories, all of which were made up.

These included claiming that, through his position as a driving instructor, he could get them a good deal on brand new cars if they paid him substantial amounts of cash.

He banked the money but no new cars were ever delivered.

Whitfield also persuaded a family friend, who was also a client, to part with her life-savings, by pretending he could invest her savings in a high-interest account.

He completely fabricated a cover story that the money was being invested in a pharmaceutical company and in return he would supply tablets to treat numerous health conditions, including a cancer drug for a member of the family battling the disease.

In fact, the pills were actually vitamin pills bought in boxes from a local supermarket and transferred into plain envelopes.

He also bogusly claimed he owed thousands from unpaid tax bills and conned people into giving him loans.

Detective Constable Phil Slater, of Bury Police, said: "Over many years, Whitfield fleeced numerous customers to the tune of nearly £250,000.

"As a driving instructor, he ingratiated his way into these people’s lives, in some cases he became their friends.

"He held a position of trust which he abused in the worst way possible, lying to and manipulating his clients.

"He got himself into a downward spiral of mounting debts and had to concoct a series of lies to dupe clients into giving him money so he could pay off other clients he had previously stolen from.

"In the simplest of terms, he was robbing Peter to pay Paul such was the financial mess he had got himself into.

"Through various cover stories, tales of woe about unpaid tax bills and promises of new cars, Whitfield managed to convince his clients he was every bit the honest, hard-working self-employed businessman and they had no reason to distrust him.

"But the fact that he stooped as low as to manipulate a family friend into believing he could help them fight cancer, causing one victim to part with her life-savings, shows just how utterly desperate he was.

"In interview, he admitted he was ashamed of what he'd done, the lies he’d told and the victims who were seriously out of pocket as a result of his lies.

"The people he conned have suffered tremendously and I can only hope they take some comfort from seeing this conman prosecuted for what he has done."