A sophisticated team of ‘boiler room’ fraudsters have been sentenced to a total of 30.5 years imprisonment for their involvement in a scam which is believed to have led to the loss of more than £2.8 million of investors’ money.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), which published the report on its website, said the scammers were targeting investors who were often “elderly and vulnerable”.
Five of the defendants were sentenced earlier this month at Southwark Crown Court, with the sixth defendant, Michael Nascimento, believed to be the ringleader, sentenced on 14 September.
The sentences relate to crimes which took place between July 2010 and April 2014, in which members of the public were cold-called and subjected to high-pressure sales tactics to persuade them to purchase shares in a company that owned land on the island of Madeira.
The targets were told that the value of their shares would “increase substantially” when permission to build 20 villas was granted, with “guaranteed” returns of between 125 and 228 per cent, although nothing was ever paid.
The evidence shows that members of the public were lied to, including that the scheme was partnered with Barclays Bank and that the Four Seasons or Hilton Hotel chains had agreed to buy the completed development for £43 million.
In total, more than 170 members of the public invested over £2.8 million in shares.
Sentencing the fraudsters, Judge Hehir said that some victims “have lost everything they had”, adding that it was “particularly repellent” that elderly people had been specifically targeted.
“None of the victims chose to be swindled, others chose to swindle them. No victim of these sort of offences should blame themselves. Those who commit these offences cannot expect anything but firm punishment,” said Judge Hehir.
Commenting on the case, Mark Steward, Executive Director of Enforcement and Market Oversight at the FCA, said: “These fraudsters callously targeted investors who were often elderly and vulnerable, lying to them to get them to part with significant sums of money.
“Despite the fraudsters’ efforts to conceal and destroy evidence, the FCA, in one of its largest ever investigations, was able to ensure that these criminals faced justice and ended up behind bars.
“Applications under Proceeds of Crime legislation remain on foot and the FCA is determined to recover as much money from these defendants as possible for the benefit of investors.”
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