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Investment fund fraudster jailed for five years

Investment fund fraudster jailed for five years

A fraudster has been jailed for five years after he purported to run investment funds.

Mark Starling was sentenced at Southwark Crown Court today (November 29) for defrauding investors of just under £3m in relation to unauthorised investment schemes he operated between 2008 and 2017.

The 57-year-old obtained the money from his friends and acquaintances and they entrusted him with just under £3m of their cash.

In sentencing, HHJ Bartle QC said Starling had defrauded investors in an "appalling way".

The Judge said that "not one word of what [Starling told investors] was true" and that he had consistently told his victims "a pack of lies". 

Starling claimed to be running three funds, the Pilot Dax fund, the Shadow Dax fund and the Pilot Eurostoxx fund, and described himself as a "proprietary futures trader".

He traded just £8,000 of the £3m invested with him, on which he made a loss of £2,450, yet managed to spend over £1m maintaining his own lifestyle.

Starling would sometimes pay money back to his investors on request to sustain the illusion of running a successful investment business. but these payments were just funded from other victims’ investment money.

To cover up his deception and prolong the fraud, Starling resorted to forging documents and correspondence purporting to be from brokerages, and bank statements.

He also registered web domain names and created email addresses in names similar to a legitimate brokerage, and for an entirely fictitious brokerage.

The judge said the forgeries were "sophisticated" and the whole scheme demonstrated the way that Mr Starling had "abused a position of trust". 

Starling was never authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority to carry out any regulated activity.

Mark Steward, executive director of enforcement and market oversight at the FCA, said: "Mr Starling was never authorised to carry on business as an investment manager or as a futures trader. His sophisticated and dishonest masquerade has caused substantial losses to innocent investors.

"The FCA is committed to ensuring that criminals who operate unauthorised investment schemes are brought to justice and our quick action here has prevented the losses from becoming much worse."

damian.fantato@ft.com

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