Monday, 11 June 2018 14:39

FCA wins increased confiscation order against £21m fraudster

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Central Criminal Court (Picture: Google) Central Criminal Court (Picture: Google)

A convicted fraudster who spent millions on a lavish lifestyle - including a luxury home in plush Sandbanks and a Ferrari after conning investors out of more than £21m - has had a confiscation order against him increased from £1 to £31,905.33.

Today Judge Grieve QC, sitting at the Central Criminal Court, made the order against Benjamin Wilson who was jailed in 2014 for seven years for fraud offences after pleading guilty to his role in an Unauthorised Collective Investment Scheme.

The increased order must be paid within 28 days or Mr Wilson will face a further 14 months in prison.

The order related to SureInvestment, a firm set up by Mr Wilson in 2003 when he was 24.

Within a few months the regulator had informed him that he needed to be authorised to continue to trade or had to close down.

He later lied to the regulator, claiming he had wound up the firm and repaid his investors.

To verify his account, the FCA’s predecessor the FSA contacted investors, but Mr Wilson persuaded them to tell the regulator that he had returned their money, when in reality he had encouraged them to invest in a separate ‘overseas’ fund.

Despite claiming to his investors that he had set up overseas, he instead placed the money in his personal SureInvestment UK bank account.

Only 20% of the total money that investors gave him between 2003 and 2010 was ever traded and when he did trade he invariably lost money.   

During the lifetime of the scheme, Mr Wilson took £21.8m from investors. Of that, only £4.2m was ever traded, with him losing £2.25m.

The fraudster spent £6.3m funding an extravagant lifestyle, including a £4m house in the exclusive Sandbanks area of Poole, Dorset; £200,000 on racing and horses; £200,000 on cars, including a Ferrari California; £100,000 on shopping and hundreds of thousands more on leisure and holidays.

On one trip to Las Vegas, the bar bill alone was $37,000.

The conman also spent “substantial amounts” creating the impression that his firm was above board and successful, with £4.8m spent on an exclusive office in Poole, complete with massage room, bar, games area and life coach.

It was also filled with ‘traders’ who were merely doing simulated computer trading.

The amount of the increased confiscation order represented monies currently held in a Santander bank account in Mr Wilson’s name.

The bulk of the balance was as a result of a payment of £31,825.18 made by the John Lewis Partnership on the death of Mr Wilson’s mother who worked for the Waitrose supermarket chain.

He received the sum as one of three beneficiaries named by her.

The judge found that Mr Wilson’s assertion that he had rejected his inheritance from his late mother was a sham and that he is therefore entitled to a one third share of her estate on top of the payment from the John Lewis Partnership.

The value of Mr Wilson’s share will be determined once the estate has been administered and the amount of the confiscation order will be further increased as a result.

As at today’s date, his share is believed to be worth in the region of £145,000.

Mark Steward, executive director of enforcement and market oversight at the FCA said: “Mr Wilson’s activities defrauded over 300 victims and today’s outcome sends a clear message that crime does not pay.

“The FCA will continue to take steps to ensure that assets are confiscated from those who benefit from their criminal conduct, including seeking increased confiscation orders, where appropriate.”

On 14 February 2014, Mr Wilson was sentenced at Southwark Crown Court to a total of seven years in jail.

The sentencing followed earlier guilty pleas to offences of fraud, forgery and operating a collective investment scheme without authorisation.

When he was sentenced, a nominal confiscation order of £1 was made against him as he was bankrupt at the time.

 

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