A scammer duo has been found guilty of fraud by abuse of position as trustees of pension schemes.
Alan Barratt and Susan Dalton were sentenced to more than 11 years in prison between them at Southwark Crown Court on 22 April 2022.
According to The Pensions Regulator (TPR), which brought the charges, they managed to trick more than 200 savers into transferring their pensions into fraudulent schemes for a total of over £13m ($17m, €15.5m) by cold calling victims from Spain.
Barratt received a sentence of five years and seven months while Dalton was sentenced to four years and eight months’ imprisonment.
They were also barred from acting as company directors for eight years.
As part of the ruling, the court greenlit an investigation to check whether any money could be recouped. An initial hearing set for 4 November 2022.
Dalton and Barratt, who was extradited to the UK from Spain in 2021 for his role in the scheme, were “key participants in a high-value pension liberation fraud” between 2012 and 2014, the TPR said.
Through the scam, they persuaded 245 members of occupational pension schemes, averaging £55,000 each with a total value of £13.7m, to transfer their retirement savings into fraudulent schemes that were controlled by the duo.
Once the transferred had been made, they then passed a “lion’s share” to the scheme’s “mastermind” David Austin who then used it for his own personal benefit, to fund his business, pay others involved in the criminal operation and to enrich himself, the regulator added.
Following the appointment of independent trustees by the TPR to review investments and assets, “it became apparent that it was very unlikely that any pension funds would be restored for scheme members”, the watchdog said.
A previous high court ruling in 2018 ordered Austin, Barratt, Dalton and another person involved in the scam called Julian Hanson to pay back the £13.7m. At the time, this was the first time an order of the sort was imposed on pension fraudsters.
Barratt was ordered to repay around £7.7m and Dalton approximately £5.9m. Austin was also part of the investigation, but he died in 2019 before it completed.
On 22 April 2022, judge Perrins said: “What is the most striking is the impact on others which has been utterly devastating. I have read 13 victims’ personal statements, they each tell a similar story, which I’m sure is representative of all.
“People who had worked hard, saved for their future and have been robbed of their financial security. I heard about depression, anxiety, divorce and suicide attempts. Each account is a story of a life ruined, and you should be ashamed of bringing such misery to so many innocent people.
“These are undoubtedly extremely serious offences in which each of you carried out the role of trustee dishonestly and, put simply, had you not done so many people would not have had their lives ruined.”
Nicola Parish, executive director of frontline regulation at TPR, added: “This is a despicable case which highlights the devastating impact pension scammers have on their victims. Barratt and Dalton were part of a criminal enterprise that tricked hundreds of savers into transferring their hard-earned pension pots into scam schemes under their control.
“In their role as trustees, the pair enabled millions of pounds to be taken from the schemes and channelled offshore, where it was used to enrich others involved in the criminal enterprise and to profit themselves.
“This prosecution and substantial custodial sentence sends a clear message that TPR and the courts will take tough action against fraudsters. Our successful extradition of Barratt from Spain also shows there’s no haven for scammers.
“Pension scams ruin lives. Savers should always be careful when making any decision to transfer a pension pot that’s taken a lifetime to build and should contact MoneyHelper, part of the Money and Pensions Service, for impartial guidance first.”