Scott Crawley, Dale Walker, Daniel Forsyth, Brendan Daley, Aaron Petrou, Ross Peters, Adam Hawkins, and Rickie Mitchie operated a UCIS scheme across three companies which misled 110 investors to purchase land at a vastly inflated price with the promise of returns over time.
Salesman for Plott Investments, European Property Investments, and Stirling Alexander cold-called potential investors with sales scripts, misleading promotional material, and high-pressure sales techniques which they used to lie about the current and future value of land.
Three of the longest sentences were dished out to Crawley, Walker, and Forsyth, who face eight, five and a half, and two years in prison respectively.
Collectively, the group were tried for a variety of offences including conspiracy to defraud, breaching the general prohibition by conducting investment business without FCA permission, and providing false and misleading information to the then FSA in a compelled interview.
"The severity of the sentences shows how seriously the courts view this kind of offending"
Additionally, Ross Peters also admitted to being in contempt of court by breaching an FCA order through dissipating over £237,000 from bank accounts, disposing of Rolex watches, and disposing of two race horses.
During sentencing, Judge Leonard QC, called the scheme “subtle and cruel” for taking advantage of the public’s belief that land investments guarantee profit.
Leonard added that Walker, the solicitor to the scheme, who received nearly £900,000 of the proceeds of crime into his accounts, had “deliberately frustrated” the investigation and was worse than his counterparts because he was a solicitor.
Georgina Philippou, acting director of enforcement and market oversight at the FCA, said: “The FCA will take strong action, through both the civil and criminal courts, against those who operate illegal investment schemes and those who assist them like solicitors.
“People put their homes and retirements at risk on the back of promises of high returns that were never going to be realised.
“The severity of the sentences shows how seriously the courts view this kind of offending.”
“Operation Cotton”, the investigation into the fraudsters, involved the use of the FCA’s civil powers and formed one of the regulator’s biggest ever inquiries.