Four men sentenced for £5.4 million gold mine investment fraud
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Four men who worked together to scam more than 340 victims out of £5.4 million in bogus gold mine investments have been sentenced.
The scammers worked for a company called IPR Capital Ltd, which employed broker companies as sales agents to sell shares in relation to a gold mine in Ecuador, for which they alleged their company had mining rights.
Stephen Todd, 40, Royal Quay, Liverpool, was sentenced to two years imprisonment, suspended for two years, along with a 12 month curfew for conspiracy to defraud. He was a disqualified director and acted as the brainchild of the scam by employing sales agents and providing them with training.
Steven Mayne, 41, Coleherne Road, London, was sentenced to two years imprisonment, suspended for two years, along with a 12 month curfew for conspiracy to defraud. He worked as the director and was the signatory to company accounts, as well as conducting compliance calls.
David Williams, 40, Brambles Close, Minster, was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment, suspended for two years, along with a 12 month curfew order for money laundering. He worked in IT at the company, alongside being a director of one of the sales agents and a signatory on the account.
John Andrews, 53, Peel Road, Orpington was sentenced to 12 months in prison for money laundering. He worked as the office manager and authorised payments.
Financial Investigator Hayley Wade, from the City of London Police, said:
“This was a long and complex investigation, fraught with challenges, but ultimately the weight of the evidence against the defendants led to late guilty pleas.
“Officers will now be continuing with the work in this case to try and recoup some of the money lost.”
Following the warrant and subsequent arrests at Kendrick Zale, the company went on to sell shares in a partnership which purported to own the rights to the Chichi gold mine in Ecuador for five years.
The shares were being sold on behalf of IPR, where Mayne was director from 2 May 2013, at the initial price of £3,000 per 0.03 per cent and prospective investors were told that their investment would go towards modernising exploitation methods, and proceeds would be made from the sale of gold.
Investors were told to expect an overall return of 250 per cent with additional bi-annual revenue. Some early investors did receive a revenue payment in March 2014, equal to 2.3 per cent of their original investment, but a review of the bank accounts held both by IPR and five separate escrow agents showed that the money had actually come from new investor funds.
Further analysis showed that only seven per cent of investor funds were ever sent to the mining partner in Ecuador.
In May 2014, IPR received independent Ecuadorian legal advice which confirmed that the rights were not properly owned by the mining company, making the partnership null and void.
Despite this, IPR continued to promote and sell shares at an increased share price of £6,000 per 0.02 per cent until the company was put into provisional liquidation in February 2015.
The company was wound up in April 2015, with director disqualifications ordered against Mayne and others.
In September 2019, charges were authorised against Mayne, Andrews and Williams and they all subsequently pleaded not guilty in February 2020. Todd was charged in July 2022 and also pleaded not guilty.
All four changed their pleas at the commencement of their four-month-long trial. Todd pleaded guilty on 21 September 2022, Mayne pleaded guilty on 22 September 2022 and both Williams and Andrews pleaded guilty on 23 September 2022.
There were 343 victims, who lost a combined total of £5.4 million.