VILE con artists have been jailed after defrauding vulnerable victims out of almost £1m.

Basildon pair Vikki King and Paul Muldoon were sentenced as part of a fraud gang which bragged about connections to the Beckham family in order to dupe victims.

The pair were part of a group with Darren Flood - who once married former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham’s sister Louise Adams.

The group, which operated as a firm called TCL, targeted vulnerable people, mainly the elderly, through cold-calling, persuading them to invest large sums of money in materials known as rare earth elements, falsely promising big returns in what is known as a boiler room fraud.

But those returns never materialised, leaving some victims having take out loans to cover their losses.

Surrey Police said the force is aware of 24 victims who invested more than £800,000 but the true scale of the crimes is believed to be much larger, with up to 30 more victims, who officers believe did not wish to come forward due to embarrassment at having been fooled.

TCL’s office manager King, 39, from Basildon, broke down in tears as she was jailed for 27 months for her part.

The court heard the mum-of-four had previously been given a suspended sentence for benefit fraud.

Muldoon, who regularly used pseudonyms during the course of the fraud, had “made great play of Darren Flood being David Beckham’s brother-in-law”, during a pitch to a victim who lost more than £62,000.

The 34-year-old, also of Basildon, was jailed in 2010 for fraud offences and fled the UK after being questioned about TCL’s activities.

He was arrested and extradited from Spain last year to face up to his crime after walking into a police station and handing himself in last January.

He had spent a couple of days in custody earlier in the month on suspicion of domestic violence against his wife who had subsequently gone missing.

Her body was later found on a beach in Marbella.

Paul Muldoon was in custody at the time of her death.

Handing him a four-year jail sentence for his part in the fraud, Judge Michael Carroll said Muldoon had been an “unscrupulous salesman preying on people who wanted to make investments for their future”.

Flood, 40, was handed a 30-month jail sentence during the two-hearing at Kingston Crown Court.

The Beckham name was mentioned to some potential investors to give the scheme an air of legitimacy, although Flood’s barrister argued he had not personally sought to capitalise on the family link.

Judge Carroll told the gang their investment scheme was “fraudulent from the outset”.

He told the group: “This must have been known to you once you became intimately involved in the running of the company or played a part in it.”

Flood, of Ware Road in Hertford, owned almost a quarter of The Commodities Link (TCL), but quit after almost ten months with the company.

He was part of the business alongside his half brother Jonathan Docker and their cousin Gennaro Fiorentino.

Fiorentino, 38, of Wetherell Road in Hackney, played “the leading role” in the company, Judge Carroll said, jailing him for five years.

Accountant Mark Whitehead, 60, of Bury St Edmunds, who acted as the company’s finance director, was jailed for three-and-a-half years.

Stephen Todd, 37, of Blackwall Way in Tower Hamlets, was sentenced to one year behind bars.

Docker, 32, of High Road, Chigwell, Essex, was jailed for 30 months and disqualified from being a director of a company for three years.

Victims of the scam included a widower, a retired policeman and a multiple sclerosis sufferer who complained that a telephone sales agent became abusive when he refused to pay more money.

Some of them, including a widow in her 80s, were even taken out to lunch in fancy London restaurants as the scammers tried to give the impression the business was legitimate and successful.

The investors were persuaded to put their money in a market that effectively did not exist for members of the public, and lied to about the value of the materials they were investing in.

The elements, rare earth metals and oxides which are used in products such as mobile phones and computers, were practically worthless in the small quantities they were being offered in, but were sold to TCL investors for up to 200 times more than the original purchase price.