A FORMER Cirencester soldier who served in Afghanistan has admitted has admitted duping women in a mobile phone scam.

James Tsolakis, 23, was asked to switch on Cirencester's Christmas lights in 2009 (pictured) after he returned from a six-month tour of Helmand province with Royal Gloucestershire Hussars as he was a glowing example of a young man volunteering for the "front line of the battle against terrorism".

But this week the former Cirencester Deer Park student, who now lives at Oaksey Golf Course, admitted six charges of defrauding women while he worked at a Phones 4U branch in Cheltenham.

Gloucester Crown Court heard it was part of a scam by conman Ashley Potter who "beguiled" women into signing contracts with Phones 4U after being promised they would get two free phones and cash without having to pay a penny.

It cost the company £6,400 in cash and phones which were handed to the women by staff, including Tsolakis who had become embroiled in Potter's crime.

Potter, aged 29, of Blackbird Avenue, Innsworth, admitted seven charges of defrauding women.

Prosecutor Alan Fuller said each woman was unaware that they were signing up for phone contracts when Potter persuaded them to go to the shop. They left with new iPhones and Blackberries as well as cashback of up to £300 but later discovered they were tied to contracts, despite having been assured there was no catch.

Tsolakis was given a six months jail term suspended for a year and ordered to do 150 hours of unpaid work while Potter received a 12 months jail sentence suspended for two years and was ordered to do 200 hours of unpaid work.

Also accused in the scam was Gary Rossiter, 41, of Serin Close, Kidderminster, the Phones 4U shop manager, and deputy manager Dean Carter, 28, of Swindon Close, Cheltenham, who each admitted one fraud charge. They were each given 12 month community orders and told to do 150 hours of work.

Judge William Hart told Potter it had been a 'mean spirited little fraud.'

Addressing Tsolakis, Rossiter and Carter he added: "As so often happens when there is one bad apple others become corrupted as well."

After the scam was uncovered, Tsolakis and Carter told police they had used it to boost their sales as they were under pressure to hit targets.

But in court Nicola Berryman, representing Tsolakis said her client had felt very uncomfortable about the scam.

Joe Maloney, for Potter, said his client accepted he had duped the women but that the victims had been guilty of 'gullibility and greed' as they had suspected there was something odd about the deals but had gone along with them anyway.