CompaniesNov 6 2015

Ex-Pru men jailed for Lords investment swindle

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Ex-Pru men jailed for Lords investment swindle

Former ‘Man from the Pru’ Lee Chapman and his brother Mark were told they had committed acts of ‘staggering dishonesty’ by taking more than £250,000 from elderly investors.

The brothers convinced the victims they were going to make a fortune out of a business selling whisky branded with the name of the Marylebone Cricket Club and the Old Father Time logo from Lords.

They claimed to have tied up contracts with supermarkets and foreign distributors worth millions when in reality they did not even have a licence to use the MCC trademark.

Their company never paid the fee to Lords because they spent the money on paying their mortgages and buying luxury cars including a £30,000 Porsche and a brand new Range Rover.

Lee Chapman was a financial adviser who previously worked for the Prudential and abused the trust of clients from all over Mid, North and East Devon by persuading them to invest their life savings.

He even drove one pensioner to the bank so he could hand over the money straight away. Others told how they would have trusted Lee Chapman with their lives.

They all lost everything they invested and will receive no compensation because both brothers are now penniless and have no realisable assets.

Mark Chapman, aged 52, of Hermitage Drive, Twyford, Berkshire admitted fraud half way through his trial and was jailed for two years and eight months by Judge Geoffrey Mercer, QC, at Exeter Crown Court.

Lee Chapman, aged 50, of Merton, near Torrington, was found guilty of four frauds and jailed for two years.

The judge told them:”You embarked on this company with genuine intentions and thought you had ideas and contacts which gave it good prospects and hopes it might take off, but from a relatively early stage you ran short of funds to live on.

“When it did not progress as you hoped and the MCC contract was cancelled, you both resorted to dishonesty, at times quite staggering dishonesty.

“The deliberate concealment of the cancellation and the creation of invoices are examples of that.

“The most aggravating feature is the considerable sums of money taken from elderly people, who were treated simply as a source of money.

“The money was used to pay your mortgages and keep you afloat, but not solely that, as can be seen by the spending of £30,000 on a Porsche.

“Lee Chapman obtained money from three people who trusted him because he had acted as their financial adviser for many years and who they still regarded as their financial adviser and who understandably placed complete trust in him.

“Mark Chapman’s dishonesty was contrived and very deliberate and there is a suggestion he may have deceived his own brother at times.”

The Judge made an order that each brother should repay a nominal £1 because they have no assets. He ruled that Mark had benefited by £177,214 and his brother by £92,361.

During a long trial earlier this year the jury heard how a company called SPS was founded and run by Mark Chapman in 2007.

His brother joined it and used his contacts as a former ‘Man from the Pru’ to extract large investments from former clients.

The company produced faked documents and a false prospectus to lure in punters who were told of huge contracts.

In reality, the company never paid the £150,000 fee to use the name of Lords Cricket Ground but carried on using the name until the MCC threatened to take them to court.

The brothers sent a newsletter to investors promising a £6 million turnover at a time when the company could not even afford to pay its accountants.

The allegations all related to a period between January 2007 and August 2012.

The victims and the amounts invested are: Graham Knight, from Reading, £291,000; Gwendoline Snell, aged 85, of Westward Ho!, £17,721.80; Gertrude Hill, aged 92, £54,500; and her daughter Victoria Ford, aged 70, both from Torrington, £40,000;

Former Portman adviser Marc Payne, aged 43, of Higher Hearson, Swimbridge, North Devon, was cleared of one count of fraud and four of carrying on a regulated financial activity without authorisation.

He was a partner in an independent firm at the time and was found not guilty after telling the jury he was also a victim of the Chapmans and had lost £50,000 of his own money.

These charges related to four more elderly customers who invested and lost £180,000. They were Richard Biss, aged 91, of Stoodleigh, Tiverton, who lost £29.919.83; Valerie Addicott, aged 83, of Exeter, £50,000; Elizabeth Gage, aged 84, of Woodbury, £50,000; and William Maynard, aged 83, of Witheridge, £50,000.