A British court sentenced five individuals to jail in a fraud case brought by the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority in connection with a series of boiler-room companies that allegedly led to a loss of more than £2.8 million of investors' money.
The FCA said members of the public got cold calls from the fraudsters between July 2010 and April 2014, and they were persuaded to buy shares in a company that supposedly owned valuable land on the island of Madeira. The investors were told that their shares would substantially increase in value, with guaranteed returns of between 125% and 228%. The investors, however, were never paid.
The five defendants who were handed sentences on Sept. 4 for their roles in the investment fraud are Charanjit Sandhu, Hugh Edwards, Stuart Rea, Jeannine Lewis and Ryan Parker. Michael Nascimento, the sixth defendant in the case described by the FCA as the instigator and main beneficiary of the fraud, will be sentenced Sept. 14.
"These fraudsters callously targeted investors who were often elderly and vulnerable, lying to them to get them to part with significant sums of money," said Mark Steward, the FCA's executive director of enforcement and market oversight.
Sandhu, a senior broker, was sentenced to 5.5 years in prison. Edwards and Rea, who recruited and trained brokers, were each sentenced to three years and nine months in prison. Parker, who purportedly fronted two of the boiler rooms and whose bank accounts were used as a conduit for some of the investors' money, was sentenced to two years in jail — suspended for 18 months due to his age, personal mitigation and lower level of involvement — and was ordered to do 180 hours of unpaid work.
Lewis, meanwhile, was given a prison sentence of 2.5 years for allegedly assisting Nascimento in laundering proceeds from the fraud through various bank accounts, as well as hiding and destroying evidence.
Sandhu, Edwards and Rea were banned from involvement in financial services or the sale of any form of investment for a period of five years after their release. The three, along with Parker, were also prohibited from being company directors for periods of seven to fourteen years.
The FCA charged all six defendants, who either pleaded guilty or were convicted by the jury, with conspiracy to defraud, fraud, money laundering and perverting the course of justice, as well as breaches of the Financial Services and Markets Act.
The investigation, dubbed Operation Tidworth, was the FCA's second-largest ever criminal prosecution, the regulator noted.