A Yorkshire-based finance boss has been found guilty of fraud and sentenced to seven years imprisonment at Leeds Crown Court.
An investigation by the Insolvency Service found Liam Francis Wainwright had falsified documents to mislead investors and spend their money on ventures including a racehorse syndicate and his own failed private businesses.
The investors were victims of a Ponzi scheme, whereby the returns paid to them were funded by the capital injections from later investors.
Wainwright, who had been a director of Rawdon Asset Finance, was disqualified for 11 years in November 2020 after investigators at the Insolvency Service found he had falsified around £12m worth of entries in the company’s loan book in the two years before the company entered administration in 2019.
After a further criminal investigation, the Insolvency Service brought the director to court on counts of false accounting, fraud, forgery, and acting as a director while bankrupt.
Julie Barnes, chief investigator for the Insolvency Service, said: “Liam Wainwright’s greed and selfish actions had a devastating effect on the people who had put their trust in him and his business. His victims included elderly and vulnerable people. Many investors lost most or all of the money they had entrusted to him, and some lost their life savings.
“His sentencing today shows that the Insolvency Service will seek the toughest penalties for those who break the law, to help ensure that the UK is a safe place for investors and for businesses.”
The court heard that Wainwright had enjoyed a lavish lifestyle as a result of his offending, and that his actions had had a devastating impact on individuals and families who had invested money into the business.
Wainwright told investors and shareholders that Rawdon Asset Finance was lending money to businesses with security on property, land or plant and equipment, but was in fact using the cash to pay returns to other creditors, buy into a racehorse syndicate and to fund other companies, including a Lincolnshire-based property development and a redevelopment company in West Yorkshire, both linked to himself.
By the time the company went into liquidation, Rawdon Asset Finance’s creditors were owed more than £20m ($25m, €23m). Liquidators have so far recovered £750,630.
Wainwright admitted that he began to falsify accounts from around 2017, to hide the company’s true financial position from his co-directors and investors. He also admitted he had earlier forged a borrower’s signature on a legal charge to mislead investors and had – between April 2010 and April 2011 – breached the terms of a previous bankruptcy by acting as a director of the company the court’s permission.
The court also heard that Wainwright had lied about the company’s accounts and the destination of funds in order to elicit £100,000 from one investor only weeks before the business collapsed, in the full knowledge that investors would not get their money back.
Wainwright pleaded guilty on 20 February 2023 at Kirklees Magistrates’ Court, and was sentenced at Leeds Crown Court by Judge Bayliss on 9 June 2023.
The judge passed concurrent sentences for all charges, except for the sentence for fraud against the final investor, which was added consecutively to reflect an escalation in Wainwright’s culpability.