A man who tried to run a protection racket has been jailed for four years.
David Still demanded weekly payments from a businessman who wanted to open a car wash, Teesside Crown Court heard.
“Still told the victim he would have to pay £25 a week and provide a free car wash for Still’s car,” said Dafydd Enoch QC, prosecuting.
“The victim asked for time to think about the demand.
“At a second meeting, Still told the victim if he did not pay, he would ‘give him a slap’.
“The prosecution say Still also indicated he had a gun, although the victim did not see one.”
The victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, did not open the car wash, but contacted the police.
The court heard while Still was on remand in Holme House prison, he contacted people on the outside in a bid to get the victim to withdraw the complaint.
Police recorded phone calls and bugged a van belonging to Paul Frain in which Frain was heard discussing the preparation of retraction statement for the victim to sign.
A third defendant, Subtain Shah, agreed to accompany the victim to the police station to submit the statement.
Still, 45, of Coronation Road, Wingate, admitted blackmail in March and conspiring to pervert the course of justice in May.
Frain, 48, of North Road East, and Shah, 45, of Front Street, both Wingate, each admitted conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
Lawyers for the three men said no violence was used, and the blackmail attempt did not go on for long.
Judge Peter Armstrong jailed Still for four years.
Frain and Shah were each given 16 months in prison, suspended for two years.
The judge told Still: “This was an attempt at extortion, it was a protection racket.
“Fortunately, it was nipped in the bud before it got off the ground.
“I accept no gun was ever found, but the threat of one must have terrified your victim.”
Shah was ordered to pay £500 towards the cost of the prosecution.