ScamsApr 6 2023

Three jailed for total of 24.5 years for £1.2mn investment fraud

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Three jailed for total of 24.5 years for £1.2mn investment fraud

Three people have been jailed for a combined 24.5 years for their roles in an investment fraud after being prosecuted by the Financial Conduct Authority.

A fourth defendant was convicted for trading without FCA authorisation.

Following an eight-week trial, Cameron Vickers, 27 of Essex, Raheel Mirza, 38 of East London, and Opeyemi Solaja, 33 of Northamptonshire, were convicted of conspiracy to defraud through a fake, London-based company called Bespoke Markets Group.

Mirza was also convicted of perverting the course of justice and Reuben Akpojaro, 40 of south east London, was convicted for trading investments without FCA authorisation. Akpojaro was acquitted of conspiracy to defraud and money laundering.

The group scammed roughly £1.2mn from around 120 UK investors as part of the fraud in which they claimed to trade their clients' investments in binary options.

In reality the money was shared among the fraudsters to fund their lifestyles and it was spend on expensive foreign travel, cosmetic dentistry, online gambling, property purchases, a wedding reception and partying in nightclubs.

To encourage people to invest or invest more, BMG offered to match investments with their own funds and refund losses in the first three-six months. The investors had access to an online platform that appeared to show their funds being traded, but this was manipulated to show trading activity when there was none. 

In sentencing, the judge, His Honour Judge Hehir, said: "[BMG] was no more than a money-making machine, which operated to transfer as much of its unfortunate customers' money into [the defendants’] pockets as possible."

Vickers was sentenced to 7.5 years imprisonment. He claimed to be the “trading floor manager” and would meet investors in person to convince them to invest.  

Mirza was sentenced to eight years imprisonment for the conspiracy to defraud offence and a consecutive 18 months for perverting the course of justice. He was responsible for setting up and running the BMG offices to legitimise the operation and the phone lines to drive investments.  

Solaja was sentenced to 7.5 years imprisonment and directly received the most money from investors.  

These defendants were also disqualified from being company directors for a decade.

Akpojaro will be sentenced on May 26.

Binary options became FCA regulated in 2018. They are a high-risk investments where 80 per cent of investors lose their money. Traders attempt to predict whether an event will happen or not and if they win, they will see a return, but if they are wrong, they will lose all their investment. Binary options have been banned for retail use since July 2018.  

Applications under the Proceeds of Crime legislation have been made to recover as much money from the defendants as possible for the benefit of the victims.