'Ruthless' scammers jailed for 21 years for ripping off elderly victims of £3m
PUBLISHED: 07:30 27 April 2019 | UPDATED: 10:19 27 April 2019
A gang has been jailed for more than 21 years today for ripping off elderly victims in a £3m investment scam.
The group, which included men from Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, ran a 'boiler room' fraud, cold calling would-be investors.
Running the scam from 2014 to 2016, they set up limited companies whose accounts the victims' funds were paid in to and recruited people to act as “mules” to launder the money through.
They took £3m from more than 50 victims, one of whom, aged 83, lost £1m.
Much of the cash ended up abroad, in Hong Kong and Cyprus, meaning victims are unlikely to get anything back.
DCI Liz Fernandes, who led the investigation for the Eastern Region Specialist Operations Unit (ERSOU), said police clocked on to the scam in 2015.
But the fraud went through different phases making it hard to detect.
Some of the company names were a play on words of genuine firms and the gang registered their firms to two London offices to add a layer of legitimacy.
And some of the victims would be hit multiple times by being asked for fees to release their assets.
One victim, who lost around £300,000, said: “The financial loss has had a significant impact on my family and a longer-term impact on not being able to provide for my family and children.”
Another told the police how he couldn't sleep and had lost weight from the stress.
Sentencing them at Southwark Crown Court, Judge Joanna Korner described the fraud as “highly sophisticated”.
A key player in the money laundering was Suffolk antiques dealer, Barry Spearing.
The 58-year old, from Stutton Hall, Stutton, was jailed for six years after being convicted of money laundering.
He also recruited others and used their bank accounts to launder the money.
The judge described Spearing's role as “instrumental”.
“He played an active role in collecting large sums of money which were drawn from various accounts,” she said.
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He recruited another member, Philip Hunt, 32, of Whitlingham Lane, Trowse, who admitted money laundering and was given a 20-month suspended sentence.
Hunt was also banned from acting as a company director for five years.
He opened two accounts, one of which required him to set up a company in order to receive payments from the scam. Around £184,000 went through his accounts.
Ryan Weston, 27, of Clarkson Avenue, Wisbech, also admitted money laundering and was jailed for three years and six months.
He received £36,000 from laundering the funds and played an “active role”, the judge said.
She cast doubt on the prosecution's claim that he was “bamboozled” into getting involved.
Spearing became involved in the scam after meeting Romford businessman Muhammed Tanveer shortly after being released from prison for a previous fraud.
Judge Korner identified Tanveer, 30, as the leading man in the scam.
He helped set up the companies used for the fraud, made arrangements for the websites and logos, and had direct contact with some of the investors.
“During the course of the evidence, [Tanveer] told lie after lie some of which were particularly outrageous,” Judge Korner said. “Even after being convicted in the first trial he declined to plead guilty.”
Tanveer was convicted of fraud and money laundering and was jailed for seven years.
Also convicted were three members of a family from Orpington in Kent.
Shaun Cross, 30, his mother Mandy Cross, 59, and cousin Lucy Richardson, 25, all laundered some of the money from the fraud.
Shaun played a “pivotal” role in the scam and “heavily influenced” his cousin and mother, the court heard.
He was jailed for four years and eight months and disqualified from acting as a director of a company for seven years.
Richardson was given a suspended sentence of two years and ordered to do 200 hours of unpaid work and Ms Cross, who used some of the money for a holiday in Mexico, was also given a suspended sentence of 12 months and ordered to complete 150 hours of unpaid work.
The eighth person involved, Mark Bowman, 55, from Whitley Bay, was given a 15-month suspended sentence for money laundering.
DCI Fernandes said: “These ruthless criminals conned many innocent people out of money they had worked hard for throughout their careers, tricking them into investing into non-existent companies and stocks.
“The sentences handed out today can never make up for the traumatic impact this has had on the lives of the victims, but we hope that it has brought them some closure.”