Regulation  

Man sentenced to seven years imprisonment for £22m fraud

Benjamin Wilson has been sentenced to seven years at Southwark Crown Court today for defrauding investors of over £21m, following previous guilty pleas for fraud, forgery and operating a collective investment scheme without authorisation.

Mr Wilson was successfully prosecuted by the Financial Conduct Authority in December 2013 after it was found that the unauthorised investment firm he ran, SureInvestment, was a sham, costing investors millions which were used to fund Wilson’s extravagant lifestyle.

SureInvestment was set up in 2003 and a few months later the regulator informed Mr Wilson that the needed to be authorised to continue to trade or wind up the firm.

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Over a decade Mr Wilson lied to the regulator and persuaded his investors to also lie. Only 20 per cent of the total money that investors gave him between 2003 and 2010 was ever traded and when Mr Wilson did trade he invariably lost money.

In October 2010, following information that suggested Mr Wilson was still operating an investment scheme, the Financial Services Authority acted through the civil courts, obtaining an injunction to freeze assets and restrain the unauthorised activity, and pursuing civil action.

When the scale of his dishonesty became clear, the FSA began a criminal investigation - Mr Wilson was arrested and his house and offices were searched in a joint operation with Dorset Police.

Mr Wilson was also sentenced to 5 months imprisonment in April 2012 for repeated breaches of the FSA High Court injunction.

In total, over 300 investors trusted Wilson with £21.8m. When the scam was closed down by the FCA, £17.54m was owed to investors and it is estimated that £5.39m in total will be recovered, the FCA said.

Mr Wilson pleaded guilty on 12 December 2013 to three counts of dishonesty (two counts of forgery and one of fraud) thereby avoiding a trial which was due to begin on 7 April 2014.

He had already pleaded guilty to a count of operating a collective investment scheme without being authorised by the FCA on 25th October 2013.

As a result of these pleas, which the FCA felt fully represented Mr Wilson’s criminality, it was decided it would not be in the public interest to proceed to a lengthy trial on the remaining counts

The sentence included seven years for fraud, and two and four years for the counts of forgery, with the terms to run concurrently.

This is the longest sentence for anyone prosecuted by the Financial Conduct Authority and the second longest under either the FCA or its predecessor, the Financial Services Authority.

Tracey McDermott, director of enforcement and financial crime, said: “Wilson used his charm and the trappings of apparent success to lure investors. However, his firm was almost as fictitious as his claims to genius.

“It was little more than a charade acted out at the expense of those who trusted and believed in him. There was only one beneficiary of the scheme and that was Wilson himself.”