Following an investigation by the City of London Police’s Fraud Squad, Lee Denton, 33, of Oxted, Surrey, was sentenced at Southwark Crown Court to four-and-a-half years in jail for money laundering.
He had blown thousands on a lavish lifestyle, including plush hotels, designer clothing and expensive meals and drinks.
The Fraud Squad initially became aware of Mr Denton’s fraudulent activity after several victims reported to Action Fraud, the national fraud and cyber reporting centre, hosted by the City of London Police.
Once the reports came in to Action Fraud, the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) assessed them and they were then given to the Fraud Squad to investigate.
It was discovered that Mr Denton had set up a fake company called TB Options Limited in August 2015, which purported to be a binary options trading platform for investment into commodities like precious metals, oil and foreign exchange.
TB Options Limited claimed to be operating from an office located in the City of London.
The company contacted the victims through cold calling and offered them a chance to invest in the commodities, claiming that they could make a profit of 20% a month on their investments.
Victims were told that they had to make an initial minimum investment of £5,000 and they were led to believe that staff at the company were betting on their behalf as to whether the price of the commodity they had invested in would rise or fall.
In reality there was no binary options service being provided.
Mr Denton was receiving the funds into several bank accounts and a PayPal account he set up to facilitate the fraud, which he withdrew via ATM machines and in branches.
To convince victims that TB Options was a legitimate company they were set up with fake online trading accounts so they could see how their investments were doing.
The accounts could only be accessed by a unique username and password, which were supplied by TB Options.
Victims were shown that their investments were making good returns and this persuaded them to invest more money into the company.
While the victims were initially told they could withdraw their cash at any time, TB Options did not return the money or close individual accounts when requested.
Victims were also told that they could not withdraw their money until they had been an investor with the company for 12 months – something they had not been informed of when they opened their accounts.
When TB Options was challenged by some of the victims about their investment, the company ceased all contact with them, took its website down and disconnected its phone line.
A total of £192,000 was withdrawn from the bank accounts and PayPal account set up by Mr Denton.
It was discovered that several thousand pounds were spent in bars, restaurants, high end hotels and on designer goods.
The conman used the remaining funds to reinvest back into the company so that it could continue to operate.
Detective Constable Rob Leete of the City of London Police’s Fraud Squad, said: “Denton had no qualms in lying to these people to steal thousands of pounds from them, which for some may have been there life savings, and now they’ve been left with nothing.
“The investigation revealed Denton’s deceitful nature and he is now deservedly paying the price for his fraudulent activity.”