A “prolific fraudster” who faced legal action from Richard Branson and Eric Cantona by using their brand names without permission from his Warrington based office has been arrested after more than 20 years on the run .
Brandon Pyatt, now aged 64, was caught in South Africa after 21 years on the run after being convicted of fraud and deception in 1998 after skipping bail during his trial at Chester Crown Court.
He received a five years jail sentence in his absence.
The National Crime Agency (NCA) said Pyatt, orginally from Droylsden, Manchester, had used fake identities to evade capture.
He committed a series of frauds linked to a vehicle leasing company he ran in the north west of England in the mid-1990s, leaving some of his victims “tens of thousands of pounds out of pocket”, the NCA added.
He was arrested in Pretoria last week after the NCA tipped off local authorities. He also faces charges in South Africa for alleged fraud and theft.
Pyatt appeared in court in Durban on Tuesday. Proceedings will be dealt with there before extradition is considered.
Pyatt hit the headlines in the mid 1990s for the Cantona scam, using the Manchester United star’s image and name on wine and brandy without permission from his office based in Froghall Lane, Warrington.
He also faced legal action from Richard Branson’s company Virgin, after launching a brand of “Virgin Jeans.”
Head of international operations for the NCA, Ian Cruxton said: “Pyatt travelled to the other side of the world and used a range of aliases and assumed identities in a bid to evade us.
“He is a prolific fraudster, and it seems that during his time in South Africa he has continued his offending and continued causing harm, making it all the more important that we track him down.”
While operating from his Warrington offices Pyatt gave the impression he had a millionaire life style driving around in a white Bentley with personalised number plates.
Police raided his offices in Warrington – but only after Pyatt had fled. He was subsequently arrested and was due to appear at Warrington Crown Court – but skipped bail on that occasion too.