Members of an international criminal gang who bought gold bars and luxury cars have been jailed for laundering almost £1.3 million stolen from the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra).
The group were convicted after details of a payee account on the Government department's database were altered to divert cash into a bogus account, North Yorkshire Police said. Detectives have never been able to establish who altered the account details.
Leeds Crown Court heard that the "sophisticated" gang laundered a total of £1.28 million of public money and treated themselves to a Porsche 911 and a Range Rover Vogue.
The four, who lived in various parts of Britain, were sentenced to a total of more than eight years in jail after they each pleaded guilty to money laundering, North Yorkshire Police said.
Robert Cann, 70, of Altrincham, Cheshire, was jailed for 15 months and Paul Tinsley, 37, of Stoke-on-Trent, was jailed for two years and two months. Paul Edwards, 30, of Newcastle-under-Lyme, was jailed for three years and three months, while Thomas Cottam, 54, of Deganwy, Conwy, North Wales, was given a 21-month prison term.
Following the sentencing, Detective Inspector Ian Wills, of North Yorkshire Police's Financial Investigation Unit, said: "This was a sophisticated attack on the Defra payments system. The proceeds funded the purchase of high-end luxury cars and £830,000-worth of gold.
"The four men sentenced today were not the controlling minds behind the fraud but they each played their role in the conspiracy to launder £1.28 million of public money. I am pleased with the sentences handed down today, which reflect how serious the criminal justice system takes this type of crime."
North Yorkshire Police said the convictions followed a long-running investigation by the force and Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
Cann, Tinsley and Edwards also pleaded guilty to being part of a scheme that cheated £250,000 from HM Revenue and Customs through an attempted VAT reclaim fraud. The group had initially set up a number of bogus companies with the intention of making false claims for VAT against HMRC, a North Yorkshire Police spokesman said.
Police said they have recovered two vehicles purchased with the cash, a Porsche 911 and a Range Rover Vogue, under a restraining order. Several other men will also be sentenced for their roles in the operation over the next few months.