Corrupt stockbroker spared jail over investment scam

Corrupt stockbroker spared jail over investment scam

A corrupt stockbroker who promised more than 300 investors huge returns for pouring £5.4mn into a South American gold mine was spared jail today (November 7).

Stephen Todd, 41, masterminded the swindle through IPR Capital Ltd, offering shares in the mining company in Ecuador.

Todd has previous convictions for fraud and was disqualified from being a company boss for 10 years in 2017 for unfit conduct while running a series of disreputable firms in the City.

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He and financial analyst Steven Mayne, 42, both admitted conspiracy to defraud while David Williams, 41, and John Andrews, 54, admitted money laundering offences.

Todd and Mayne were both sentenced to two years' imprisonment, suspended for two years.

Williams received a 12-month sentence suspended for two years.

Andrews, a former Army NCO currently serving a lengthy jail sentence for dealing MDMA, was jailed for 12 months. 

Todd was also disqualified from being a company director for six years.

'I'm finding it difficult to re-live this time'

Retired nurse Geraldine Fitzgerald, who lost £13,000 in the scam, had told Southwark Crown Court: "I felt excited about the gold mining project. I had recently inherited a few thousand pounds from the death of my mother.

"I was very impressed by their friendliness on the phone. They invited me to visit the office.

"They gave the impression of being honest and open. I was impressed by the emphasis on eco-friendly mining. I was very impressed by their alleged care for miners. There was talk of a school being built, a health clinic being set up.

"It really touched all my buttons, all the things I care about. I trusted them."

Fitzgerald said when she realised she had been conned "I felt sick and wobbly. I didn’t want to believe that such nice, friendly people could be involved in scamming people like me.

"The feeling of blankness lasted some time. I’m finding it difficult to relive this time. I feel sick that I allowed them to get emotionally inside me. I feel very sad that I allowed money from my mother to be used in this way."

She added: "I worked as a nurse in developing countries. I am now reliant on housing benefits and a state pension. I put a lot into life. No one will pull me down or make me feel like a victim forever."

Another investor that did not want to be named lost £71,000 and told the court: "It seems that the people behind the fraud were trying to line their own pockets. They had little or no thought for the investors putting their money into the scheme."

Judge's comments

Judge Gregory Perrins said: "The entire investment was doomed to fail so that many people who had put their trust and so much of their lives in the project would suffer loss.

"The greed involved meant it was doomed to fail. There is no doubt that this is a significant, sophisticated and prolonged fraud.