More than 800 vulnerable pensioners scammed out of £13.7m by Elizabeth Line Ponzi fraud


MORE than 800 vulnerable British pensioners were shamelessly scammed out of £13.7 million by boiler room fraudsters who claimed they were raising funds by redeveloping and selling properties along the route of the Elizabeth Line as it was developed.

Five men have been convicted of running the elaborate Ponzi fraud that offered fixed returns of eight per cent and saw people invest between £5,000 and £140,000 after high-pressure sales tactics.

But it was a huge scam and the firm Essex and London Properties Ltd (ELP), which people invested into, only purchased one property and took much of the cash to fund luxury lifestyles, including a trip to Dubai, where some of the money was hidden, and hiring a private yacht.

Southwark Crown Court heard on Friday, October 7, that sales staff used forged Land Registry documents, alleging that they had purchased properties in Chelmsford, Brentwood and Colchester, to hoodwink investors into believing it was legitimate.

A separate firm that opened an Escrow bank account for the fraudsters were also shown a property under renovation that they had no connection to as part of the con.

The scammers also played a pre-recorded background noise during a cold call to suggest they were calling from a busy office and created a professional brochure using stolen photos of properties from estate agents.

Friday say the sentence of the last member of the gang.

Abdul Mukith, 42, of Writtle, Essex, was jailed for eight-and-a-half years after previously pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud and conspiracy to launder.

He was also disqualified from being a company director for eight years following his release.

Judge Gregory Perrins said: "This was over a large timescale with a large number of victims and they were deliberately targeted for being vulnerable.

"Most brazenly, you attend a property being renovated and deliberately gave the impression it was one owned by the fund, but it had nothing whatsoever do with Essex and London Properties."

Judge Perrins said victims had described the impact of the fraud, including John Moore, who lost all his retirement fund and was unable to fulfill his dream of travelling.

He said another victim, Luke Couzens "finds it too painful to talk about the cash he lost and his marriage nearly ended over the turmoil caused by losing all his money."

After the hearing DC Greig Avery, of Essex Police Serious Economic Crime Unit, said: “This is one of the largest cases of fraud we’ve investigated with some of the most sophisticated tactics we’ve seen used to convince investors that the company was legitimate.

"They used every tactic they could think of to pretend it was an established, legitimate company and shamelessly conned hundreds of investors out of millions of pounds.

“On one occasion, they even showed a potential investor around a property they were looking to ‘add to their portfolio’, which of course never happened.

“Funding a lavish lifestyle off of the hard earnings of other people is in my mind, a sickening crime and included an all-expenses paid trip to Dubai and hiring a private yacht.

“This was a sophisticated fraud which financially impacted a large number of victims and I’m incredibly proud that we’ve been able to stop them in their tracks and bring them to justice.”

“Our teams of specialists have worked tirelessly on this case for the past five years, identifying more than 800 people who were cheated by the company.

“I’m extremely proud that we’ve been able to get justice for them and ensure the men responsible spend a significant time behind bars.

“Nobody should fear losing their hard-earned money to fraudsters and if you or someone you know may have been a victim, please report it.”

ELP paid the initial interest of the first wave of investors to keep up appearances, not from returns on their investments but with the money transferred by new investors. This is known as a Ponzi scheme.

Any remaining money would then be transferred overseas and into the accounts of other companies owned by the shareholders, who also received substantial sums into their own personal bank accounts.

Two of the fraudsters pocketed over £500,000 each and a third pocketed over £250,000.

In reality, ELP only ever purchased a single property in Harwich, for less than 1% of the overall money they collected.

Instead, investors’ money was used to pay back those who invested earlier and to fund the lifestyle of those committing the fraud.

Within a month of our investigation starting, a restraint order was issued through the courts to freeze ELP’s assets.

In November 2018, they were ordered into liquidation by Her Majesty’s High Court of Justice.

Four other men were sentenced in August, while two others were found not guilty.

Mohammed Tanveer, 33, of Coventry Road, Ilford, Essex, pleaded guilty to both conspiracy to commit fraud and conspiracy to launder the proceeds of fraud and jailed for five years.

Florian Pierini, 35, of no fixed abode, was sentenced to five years imprisonment and disqualified as a Company Director for five years.

Mohammad Hussain, 31, of Church Close, Kidlington, Oxfordshire, was sentenced to four-and-a-half years imprisonment and was disqualified as a Company Director for five years;

Jeffrey Razaq, 60, of Gunton Cliff, Lowestoft, Suffolk, received a 12-month suspended sentence for 12 months and was ordered to complete 200 hours of unpaid work.