Five people - including three members of the same family - have appeared in court accused of a £300,000 conspiracy to defraud businesses.
The probe centres on claims a Preston based loan company took advance payment fees or deposits for loan arrangements that allegedly were never honoured.
Imran Ahmed, 39, of Burrow Road, Deepdale, his former wife Dhruti Patel, 33, of Fulwood Hall Lane, Preston, and his brother Rizwan Ahemd, 38, of Regent Drive, Fulwood, Preston, appeared before District Judge Jane Goodwin at Preston Magistrates Court for a brief hearing.
With them in the dock was co defendants Martin Williams, 29, of Links Gate, Preston, and Debbie Devaney, 27, of Ashleigh Street, Preston.
All were summonsed to court on the same 13 charges relating to their roles in a loan company, which was based in Preston.
All five defendants pleaded not guilty to each of the charges.
Prosecuting Paul Foster said: “It’s quite a complex case but in essence what seems to have happened is adertisements have been businesses promising loans at very good rates. The fee is paid by the company and then the loan never materialises.”
The prosecution say businesses were told their loans were approved but that they had to pay a deposit or fee.
In one case it is alleged a loan of £3m had been ‘approved’, and that the company had paid £20,000 as a deposit.
In another, a woman paid £7,327 after being promised a £30,000 loan.
Another firm claims it paid a £29,250 in deposit and arrangement fees for a loan of £210,000.
The rest of the counts relate to similar matters, and the promised loans were then not paid, Preston Magistrates Court heard.
The charges date back as far as 2010 and cover a two year period. The amount of money alleged to have been pocketed amounts to over £300,000.
It is understood the alleged victims are from other parts of the country, and as far as Ireland and Scotland.
Sources told the Evening Post the firm had previously had premises on Garstang Road, then Winckley Square.
The alleged victims include, contractors, a bus company, and a cling film company.
The judge said it was appropriate to send the case to Crown Court because the allegations related to “a sophisticated fraud by an organised group”. A preliminary hearing is set for next month