Sunday, 14 May 2017

Precious Metals Investment Scam: Four Jailed For £7.75m Plot

Sabin & Ridpath Sold "Worthless Barrels Of Junk"
Four precious metals investment scammers, who duped hundreds of customers out of £7.75m in savings and pensions for “worthless barrels of junk”, have been jailed for a total of 29 years.

Using a misleading website and inaccurate glossy brochure they either cold-called customers with scripted patter or placed ads offering the opportunity to purchase supposedly lucrative metals vital to 80% of the world’s industry.

Ringleaders Christopher Sabin, 44, of Eyot House, Church Street, Shoreham, Sevenoaks and Tobias Ridpath, 52, of Wellington Square, Hastings each received nine years.

Prolific salesman Nicholas Start, 35, of Spencer Close, Pamber Heath, Tadley, Hampshire, who pocketed at least £132,000 in commission over a few months received seven years.

William Berkeley, 52, of Barrington Court, Chichester Terrace, Horsham joined the scam near its conclusion, running their Switzerland office and received four years.

All four were convicted by a Blackfriars Crown Court jury of to conspiring to defraud investors by making false representations and a Proceeds of Crime Act hearing will follow to confiscate their profits.

Prosecutor Mr. David Durose told jurors Denver Trading - started by Sabin and Ridpath -  was run from a short-term £860 per month office in the City.
Pension Pirate: Ridpath

The court was told Start headed a “prolific” brokerage - London Commodity Markets - and Berkeley took over the Swiss branch of the business after the original director quit, claiming the business “stank horribly.”

One typical investor, Cecil McMurray, invested £243,000. “He lost a vast amount of money.”

Another client bought 100 kilos of rare metals in September, 2012 for £39,000 and two-and-a-half years later that investment was worth £285.

The investors did not know approximately 50% of the money they handed over immediately went to the company as a sales commission - halving the investment, the jury were told.

“Not one of them have made a penny and they have lost pension pots and life savings. The losses are in the millions and millions of pounds.

“They were duped into investing,” explained Mr. Durose, who said the fraud lasted approximately one year from Spring, 2012.

Judge Rajeev Shetty said today: “All the buyers have ended up with worthless barrels of junk, either gathering dust or have long since been disposed of. The loss to them has been total, no one has made one pound back.

“The jury found this was all a scam, a ruthless vehicle designed to rip-off people of their savings and pension pots to make you all wealthy.

“Making as much money as possible was the name of the game and that game is now up.” 

Investors were wooed with promises of returns on investments in Rare Earth Metals and Rare Earth Elements, which were vital in engineering and manufacturing.

Jailed Again: Fraudster Start
The court heard dad-of-three Sabin and father-of-two Ridpath founded the company in the Seychelles on February 23, 2013 and quickly gave it the trappings of a successful business.

They had previously been disqualified as company directors, with Sabin running a suspicious fine art investment company and Ridpath a discredited champagne investment firm.

Judge Shetty told Start, who had only been out of prison for six months for a £100,000-plus fraud. “You knew what was going on. You were a skilled manipulator with a skilful sales patter and approachable facade.

“Your greed was so great that you asked customers, who had already invested large sums, to cash in Premium Bonds and ISA’s and you got the details of their family and friends to rip them off as well.”

The judge described their sales practices as “threatening and intimidating” with over 600 investors deceived. “Many were retired, some of advancing years and likely to be vulnerable and were targeted without remorse.”

He told Sabin and Ridpath: “You are driven by greed and a thirst for money and both of you have been funding your family lives on the losses of others and their family lives.” 

Mr. Durose told the jury: “The huge commissions are utterly inconsistent with any legitimate investments. Purchasers were not told about the size of the commissions and some were lied to.”
Swiss Miss: Berkeley

Only around 15%-20% of investors money ever went towards buying the rare metals.

“There is no resale market for these metals. They were almost useless as an investment.”

The price of such metals has been falling since 2011, added Mr. Durose. “The investors were blatantly lied to.”

Sabin and Ridpath hid behind a nominee director and nominee shareholder and when later quizzed by police claimed they were no more than business development managers and did not run the company.

Their website developer also quit his involvement in November, 2012, unimpressed by Sabin and Ridpath.

By then their were 1900 customer contracts on the system and dozens of sales staff selling rare metals to investors.

Customer were told their investment would double or triple over three to five years, with Denver Trading’s commission a modest 5%.

One investor was even promised a 1000% return in five years, but he and other customers were paying a five-fold mark-up.

The jury heard £5.6m ended up in a Cypriot bank account controlled by Sabin and Ridpath.

Sabin and Ridpath have been disqualified from running a company for 15 years; Start ten years and Berkeley six years.

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