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£30,000 painting fraudster ordered to pay back just £1

Paintings by Richard Pearson were passed off as original artworks Credit: Northumbria Police

A jailed conman who pocketed over £30,000 by selling forgeries and fakes of renowned painter Norman Cornish's work has been ordered to pay back just £1.

Richard Pearson caused destabilisation in the international market when he flooded the art world with paintings and drawings purported to be by "pitman painter" Cornish, who died in 2014.

The 56-year-old fraudster had convinced the owners of a gallery in Corbridge, Northumberland, that he had access to a collection of Mr Cornish's artworks through inheritance and via a friend who wanted to sell his personal collection.

Pearson, of Thomas Street North, Sunderland, passed off a series of 14 drawings and pictures, which left the gallery owners who bought them thousands of pounds out of pocket.

Four of the fakes were sold on to private collectors.

At Newcastle Crown Court in January, Pearson was put behind bars for three years and seven months.

Norman Cornish lived in Bishop's Close Street in Spennymoor Credit: PA

The conman has now been back in court, via video link to prison, for a Proceeds of Crime Act hearing.

Judge Edward Bindloss made an order stating that the benefit figure made by the defendant was £31,650 and that the available assets to be seized is just £1.

Judge Bindloss said: "I declare that following a rigorous financial investigation, no assets have have been found to be available to this defendant."

The judge warned that if Pearson comes into any cash, the sum up to £31,650 could still be seized from him.