Michael Nascimento, 41, of Green Lane, Belmont Parade, Chislehurst, Kent was found guilty of three counts of money laundering in relation to the carbon credit scam and was sentenced to two years for each count, to run concurrently.
He was also jailed for 11 years for his role in a separate share pushing fraud carried out through a series of boiler room companies, which led to the loss of more than £2.8m of investors’ money.
He was described as "the controlling mind, instigator and the main beneficiary of the fraud" and branded "despicable" by a sentencing judge.
Elderly and often vulnerable investors were targeted, many of them losing "life-changing" sums. One woman was conned while her mother had cancer and another ran up debts to invest in the scam.
Between July 2010 and April 2014, members of the public were cold-called and subjected to high pressure sales tactics to persuade them to purchase shares in a company that claimed to own valuable land on the island of Madeira.
The investors were told that the value of the shares would increase substantially when permission to build 20 villas was granted. Investors were promised guaranteed returns of between 125% and 228%.
None were ever paid.
Investors’ money was used to maintain the fraud and to fund the lifestyle of Mr Nascimento.
Over 170 members of the public invested more than £2.8m in the shares.
Today’s sentencing follows that of five other individuals involved in the same fraud on 4 September 2018 and takes the total imprisonment for all six individuals to 28 years and six months.
In the carbon credit case, which also included Mr Nascimento's network, three men were sentenced to 12 years and 8 months for their involvement in mis-selling carbon credits to 130 victims in a £2.4m fraud.
The profits made were used to buy luxury items, including an Aston Martin worth £33,000 and a £4,000 Rolex watch.
The investigation was taken on by the City of London Police as the national lead force for fraud, following a referral from Essex Police.
The men were sentenced at Southwark Crown Court for conspiracy to defraud and money laundering offences.
They mis-sold carbon credits to unsuspecting victims through two companies, Harman Royce Ltd and Kendrick Zale Ltd, between January 2012 and August 2013.
• Company director Sandeep Dosanjh, 30, of Allenby Crescent, Grays, Essex admitted two counts of conspiracy to defraud and was sentenced to four years and six months for each count to run concurrently. He was sentenced on 4 September.
• James Lanston, a senior broker, 28, of The Boulevard, Greenhithe, Kent, pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to defraud and was sentenced to two years and three months imprisonment.
• Charanjit Sandhu, another senior broker, 28, of Mayfield, Grays, Essex, admitted two counts of conspiracy to defraud and was sentenced to three years.
Victims of Harman Royce would receive telephone calls from ‘brokers’ of the company including Mr Lanston and Mr Sandhu, who, often using fake names, would persuade them to invest in voluntary emission reductions (VERs), a type of carbon credit.
Brokers at Harman Royce sought the contact details for homeowners, aged 50 and above, living in affluent postcodes in order to target their victims.
Between January 2012 and October 2012, 130 victims were charged between £5.26 and £6.50 per carbon credit, totalling a loss of £1.5 million.
Evidence from an independent consultant suggests that the real trading price for carbon credits at this time was between 25p and 30p.
The money paid into the Harman Royce bank account was to pay staff wages and to buy luxury items including an Aston Martin worth £33,000 and a £4,000 watch.
Victims were provided with a bogus ‘carbon market analysis’ spreadsheet, which claimed to show the month on month changes in carbon credit prices between 2007 and 2012.
Similar tactics were used by Kendrick Zale, where victims reported receiving unsolicited phone calls from ‘brokers’ at Kendrick Zale, again including Mssrs Lanston and Sandhu, who used high pressure sales techniques to persuade them to invest in Certified Emission Reductions (CERs), a type of carbon credit, at an inflated price per unit.
In many cases, investors were persuaded to cash in ISAs or sell existing shares with reputable companies.
In August 2013 the City of London Police began investigating Kendrick Zale.
Between May and August 2013, Kendrick Zale was found to have sold over 300,000 carbon credit units to 28 individual investors, totalling £900,000.
Senior Investigating Officer Hayley Wade, of the City of London Police’s Fraud Squad, said: “The set-up of Kendrick Zale, just months after clients of Harman Royce had been defrauded, shows the callous nature in which these fraudsters operated.
“These fraudsters cruelly targeted often elderly individuals with the intention of defrauding them of their life savings. They clearly felt no remorse for their actions, closing one company, only to set-up another and commit the same offences.
“The custodial sentences imposed today will hopefully go some way to deterring others from committing such offences.”
Mark Steward, executive director of enforcement and market oversight at the FCA, said: “This brings to an end the FCA’s largest fraud prosecution which has seen the perpetrators imprisoned for a total of 28.5 years, affording justice to victims who were the subject of their calculated deception.
"We are continuing to fight for compensation for victims out of their assets.”
In sentencing Mr Nascimento today at Southwark Crown Court, the trial judge, His Honour Judge Hehir, remarked that Mr Nascimento had shown “utter cynicism and contempt” for some of the victims.
He said it was “particularly repellent” that elderly people had been specifically targeted and that many of the victims were vulnerable.
The judge said that some of the stories he had heard during the trial were “positively heart-breaking” and that many of the victims had suffered “life-shattering losses”.