Seven fraudsters have been sentenced today (11 January) following some good work by Action Fraud and Surrey Police.
The group, who stole more than £800,000 after targeting elderly and vulnerable people, were given jail terms ranging from 27 months to five years.
Victims were cold called and pressured into investing their savings in materials known as “rare earth elements” – metals and oxides which are used in many electronic devices.
Action Fraud was able to the link the reports made by victims and send them to Surrey Police for investigation.
Inspector Paul Carroll, of the City of London Police’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, said:
“This is an excellent example of how our close partnership working with local forces can lead to successful prosecutions of cruel fraudsters.
“In this case, Action Fraud was able to link reports made by the victims and send them on to Surrey Police for, what was a lengthy and complex, investigation.
“These criminals betrayed the trust of unsuspecting people and made a living out of lying for their own monetary gain. We are pleased that they have now been brought to justice.
“If you think you have been a victim of fraud, report it to Action Fraud.”
Detective Inspector Matthew Durkin from Surrey Police said:
“This was a complex case to investigate due to the large number of defendants, the huge amount of digital, financial and paper evidence, and the complex nature of the defendants changing relationships during the time that the fraud took place. I am proud of the result we got today and that is testament to the hard work of my officers.
“I want to particularly pay tribute to the bank manager who started this investigation by giving us a call when he was uncomfortable with an investment a client was trying to make. Without his quick thinking, who knows how much further they would have got.
“This company tried to appear professional and legitimate to the outside world – but all they were is professional criminals: thieves in suits.
“They were professional in their approach to defrauding their victims. They cold-called them, but took their time over making the investment seem legitimate, grooming the victims into believing that they had done their homework and this was a good investment.
“These victims were not stupid and they were not greedy. The criminals worked very hard to persuade them – some of whom were previously successful business people or academics – that this was a good investment opportunity.
“Once the investor had transferred some funds, the group were ruthless in exploiting those that had fallen for their lies, persuading them to invest repeatedly by encouraging them to ‘increase’ or ‘diversify’ the portfolio and make it ‘more attractive to buyers’.
“These people have broken their victims’ lives – they took life savings, left investors destitute and ruined their confidence and independence.
“My message to anyone receiving a cold call about an investment opportunity is to hang up. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! If you are tempted to make investments, then seek professional advice and help – your due diligence needs to be completely independent of the people selling you the investment – it is all too easy to set up websites and glossy marketing materials that make an investment appear legitimate.
“I also want to warn specifically about the use of Escrow agents. This gang made use of Escrow agents to transfer the money, and highlighted that the agent was registered with the Financial Services Agency. In this case the Escrow agents were only there to help transfer the money – they had no part in the fraud, there was no FSA protection, and it did not mean the investment was genuine.”
Genarro Fiorentino, 38, of Wetherell Road, Hackney, was found guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud on 28 November 2018. Today he was sentenced to 5 years. He was also issued with a Serious Crime Prevention Order.
Darren Flood, 40, of Ware Road, Hertford, was found guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud on 28 November 2018. Today he was sentenced to 30 months.
John Docker, 32, of High Road, Chigwell, was found guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud on 28 November 2018. Today he was sentenced to 30 months.
Mark Whitehead, 59, of Ixworth, near Bury St Edmunds, was found guilty (by majority verdict) of conspiracy to commit fraud on 28 November 2018. Today he was sentenced to 3.5 years.
Vikki King (also known as Vikki Edwards), 39, of Pattiswick Square, Basildon, was found guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud on 28 November 2018. Today she was sentenced to 27 months.
Stephen Todd, 37, of Blackwall Way, Tower Hamlets, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud on 6 September 2018. Today he was sentenced to a further year to be served consecutively to a previous 7 year sentence for fraud.
Paul Muldoon (also known as Paul Roberts or Paul Taylor), 34, of Hockley Green, Basildon, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud on 9 March 2018. Today he was sentenced to 4 years. He was also issued with a Serious Crime Prevention Order.