Three Brits sentenced in U.S. for massive stock scam

July 23, 2013 at 4:23 PM
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TAMPA, Fla., July 23 (UPI) -- A federal judge in Florida sentenced three Britons to prison for a stock scam that fleeced British investors of funds that wound up in U.S. banks.

The trio were the ringleaders of what London police said was the largest boiler room scheme in British history and received a total of 43 years in a U.S. prison for their efforts.

"These men are amongst the most arrogant, ruthless and destructive criminals the city of London police have ever dealt with and deserve every day they will spend behind bars," London Detective Inspector Kerrie Gower told the BBC.

Richard Pope, Simon Odoni and Paul Gunter were convicted in U.S. District Court last week of conning British investors of 80 million pounds ($122.5 million), much of which wound up in U.S. bank accounts where it was spent on their lavish lifestyles. The U.S. attorney's office in Tampa said in a written statement that $127 million had been wired into one Florida account by unsuspecting investors.

The three were charged in the United States with multiple counts of fraud and money laundering and ordered to forfeit cars, real estate, other bank accounts and an airplane.

The scam the three were charged with was a classic boiler-room con that began in 2004. Telemarketers lured in victims with "can't-miss" stock investments in seemingly up-and-coming companies in the United States. Those shell companies, however, were largely non-existent. The defendants obtained the names of publicly traded companies that had gone "dormant" from two Texas attorneys who were convicted of conspiracy last year.

Call centers in Spain did the rest, convincing scores of Britons to sink their savings into stock that turned out to be worthless.

"The devastation and the impact that victims have suffered has been huge and it's had drastic consequences to individual lives," Gower said. "There were marriages breaking down, selling of properties, individuals losing their businesses, having to work again when they were about to go in to retirement."

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