Byline: DANNY BUCKLAND;PAUL HARRIS
LAST month, at a court in Orlando, Briton Chantal McCorkle and her American husband were each jailed for 24 years without parole for a [pounds sterling]45million get-rich-quick property fraud. Here the Mail charts the journey of a beautiful blonde from the Home Counties, whose amazing story of ambition, wealth and heartache has ended in a Florida jail cell.
THERE are no designer clothes now, just a prison-issue boiler suit in one colour, one size. Her blonde hair is still long and her complexion remains as clear as her English accent, even though she is 4,000 miles from home. She was 30 when, last month, she was sentenced to jail. But by the time Chantal McCorkle emerges from her cell she will be 54, childless and grey. Even her near-neighbour inside Florida's Tallahassee prison, who murdered her husband and carved a Star of David into his flesh, will probably be out on parole before then.
For the crime the former Maidenhead schoolgirl was convicted of perpetrating had far greater impact in the U.S. than any domestic murder.
Chantal McCorkle defiled the American dream.
Quite how an intelligent, strikingly-attractive young woman from a respectable English background came to be serving one of the harshest sentences on record for such an offence needs explaining in some detail. But it certainly involves ambition, considerable wealth and family heartache - and the handsome 'exotic dancer' who became her husband.
Until a few months ago you could see them together most nights in a TV commercial on a subject close to every American heart: how to succeed and make money.
William J. McCorkle was pictured gliding a manicured hand over a brand new motor-cruiser, stepping from a stretch limo and boarding a private jet with his name on the fuselage. In an impeccably-tailored suit, he was selling a get-rich-quick scheme that looked irresistible.
For just $69, viewers would be sent a video, booklet and information pack on how to make a fortune from property deals.
In Britain, his cheesy sales pitch would have had all the appeal of a second-rate TV evangelist (which, incidentally, was his inspiration). But what helped to hook American viewers was the beautiful blonde at his side.
She had a cultured appeal, an English accent, a model figure, and walked alluringly between a white Rolls Royce and a blue Ferrari to a waiting helicopter. It was the perfect touch of class to complete an image that was pumped into millions of homes across the U.S. So legions of would-be millionaires invested their trust - and their cash. It all seemed too good to be true - which, of course, it was.
LAST month, Mr and Mrs McCorkle were sentenced after being convicted of a [pounds sterling]45million fraud that promised business partnerships which didn't exist.
When they were arrested, armed police and FBI agents seized 23 bank accounts, a brace of luxury cars and at least [pounds sterling]3million in cash. The couple were found guilty of 151 charges of fraud, money-laundering and making false statements.
Now, a young woman from Berks and Bucks, who wanted to see a bit of the world before starting a family, can see only the high walls and razor wire that enclose her. Back home they find it
hard to believe what has happened.
Chantal's mother Diane Forrester, 50, said: 'Chantal is no master criminal.
She is just an ordinary, hardworking girl. She still cannot comprehend what went wrong, and what she has done that is so bad that her life is effectively over. 'This case says so much about American society in Florida.
Being British has not helped her in any way.
Chantal is suffering because of what she is, not what she has done.'
CHANTAL, whose father Les ran a silkscreen printing business, was born Chantal Watts in Taplow, Buckinghamshire.