Ex-rave organiser the 'Acid House King' whose home-built fraud machine stole £500k jailed for stealing from letterboxes

13 February 2023, 16:45 | Updated: 13 February 2023, 16:52

Tony Colston-Hayter, 57, was caught 'desperately' stealing letters from a postbox
Tony Colston-Hayter, 57, was caught 'desperately' stealing letters from a postbox. Picture: Alamy / Met Police

By Danielle DeWolfe

An ex-rave organiser dubbed the 'King of Acid House' whose 'Sunrise' parties were once banned by the British government has been jailed for stealing post from innocent homeowners' letterboxes.

Tony Colston-Hayter, 57, appeared in court after he was caught "stuffing" white paper envelopes from letterboxes into a rucksack, post which prosecutors claimed was then exchanged for drugs.

It's the latest in a string of convictions, spanning the fields of cyber-security, deception and fraud.

Rising to fame in the eighties, the events organiser once famously handcuffed himself to presenter Jonathan Ross live on television after his infamous Home Counties raves were banned by then Home Secretary Douglas Hurd.

Following decades of obscurity, the party organiser later returned to the spotlight, this time labelled the 'Mr Big' of cybercrime.

Tony Colston-Hayter, 57, was caught 'desperately' stealing letters from a postbox
Tony Colston-Hayter, 57, was caught 'desperately' stealing letters from a postbox. Picture: Met Police

The mastermind behind a £1.25million cyber bank heist, the former events organiser led a gang which targeted numerous victims - including comedian Stephen Merchant, before he was sentenced to five and half years in prison in 2014.

Released at the age of 53, it wasn't long before Colston-Hayter returned to his old tricks, this time building a homemade fraud machine imitating a bank employee to swindle £500k.

Now, following his release, Colston-Hayter, of Brighton, has been caught once again, this time for pinching people's post to exchange for drugs in and around London on January 5, 2023.

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"He was seen stuffing what looked like white paper envelopes into a rucksack," said Gerard Renouf, for the prosecution.

After being surrounded by members of the public who caught him in the act, Colston-Hayter was detained by the individuals until police arrived.

"Inside his black rucksack was a large quantity of letters not addressed to him," said Mr Renouf.

"He had in his rucksack a crowbar."

Used to contact victims and convince them he was a member of bank staff, Colston-Hayter made his way through a spreadsheet of potential victims using the device
Used to contact victims and convince them he was a member of bank staff, Colston-Hayter made his way through a spreadsheet of potential victims using the device. Picture: Met Police

The ex-rave organiser admitted going on his letter raids equipped and then breaching a serious crime prevention order that was already in place following his previous conviction.

With his crimes described as switching from "sophisticated" to "desperate" by Colston-Hayter's defence team, he has now been sentenced to 10 months in prison.

During his 2018 appearance for fraud, the court heard how the raver had built a bizarre machine comprised of a card reader and voice-altering equipment.

Used to contact victims and convince them he was a member of bank staff, Colston-Hayter made his way through a spreadsheet of potential victims, which is said to have included the names and bank details of Noel Gallagher and Sheridan Smith.

After being confiscated by the Metropolitan Police as part of their case, experts from the Met's Digital Communications and Cyber Laboratory confirmed it was a low-budget, working device.

Colston-Hayter pictured during his rave-organising heyday in the 1980s
Colston-Hayter pictured during his rave-organising heyday in the 1980s. Picture: Alamy

Jailed over nine counts - including possession of an article for use in fraud and two counts of making or supplying an article for use in fraud - Colston-Hayter was jailed for 20 months, before being released in May 21, 2019.

Now, Joey Kwong, defending Colston-Hayter, said: "He is sorry for what he has done. He has managed to stay out of trouble for three and a half to four years.

Making reference to his past string of convictions, Mr Kwong said: "He is no longer that man. The offending being dealt with today is not sophisticated, it is desperate.

"He is battling both mental health and addiction.

"Having been released from prison on May 21, 2019, he stayed out of trouble for at least three years. He was working on a book telling his story.

"He thought, wrongly, that going off medication would help him focus. He was using the crowbar to jimmy open letterboxes.

"He said he was never going to burgle. He said he was going to steal letters."

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