A former financial adviser has denied forging clients’ signatures from across Derbyshire and South Yorkshire so he could invest thousands of pounds of their money into a high risk fund for his own benefit.
Derby Crown Court heard on Monday (15 May) during the beginning of a six-week trial how Martin Rigney, 67, formerly of Great Hucklow, near Buxton, allegedly committed 22 counts of forgery involving tens of thousands of pounds of clients’ cash which was lost after it was invested into a fund which was suspended.
Prosecuting barrister Martin Hurst said: “We say he had been routinely forging his client’s signatures. Clients will be saying, ‘I did not sign that’, ‘I cannot remember signing that’, and ‘it is not my signature’, and experts will argue it’s a forgery.”
Mr Rigney used to trade under Topps Rogers Financial Management and his clients were generally retired and some have since died and their funds were invested in the Poland Geared Growth Property fund - known as the Polish fund.
Clients were originally advised to invest via Royal Skandia bonds with a safe, non-risky spread of investments in various funds before Mr Rigney allegedly forged signatures and switched investments to the Polish fund.
Mr Hurst explained this was an investment into the Polish property market but he stressed it was an unregulated collected investment scheme and it was unsuitable for the vast majority of Mr Rigney’s clients who required safe, non-risk investments to help pay school fees, cover the cost of nursing homes or to provide money to live on.
Mr Hurst said this kind of product could only be marketed to high-net worth individuals and was completely unsuitable for Mr Rigney’s clients.
He claimed money originally placed into a Royal Skandia bond and then into the Curzon Capital Investment Poland Geared Growth fund yielded £371,149 as Mr Rigney’s commission income for advising people to go into the Polish Fund.
But the Polish fund was suspended in 2008 and nobody could get their money out and they lost their cash, according to Mr Hurst.
Mr Hurst said: “Mr Rigney was not concerned about getting clients to sign documents and he would sign them on their behalf. Signing them or forging their signatures on letters telling him what to do or on documents about knowing your client.”
He added: “The reason, the prosecution, say he was forging clients’ signatures was to hide from them what he was doing.
"Many of the people in this trial had no idea their money was being invested into Polish property and if they had known it was unregulated and how risky it was they would not have touched it with a barge pole.
“He fobbed them off with stories about how much the fund would be worth and it would all be all right in the end.”
The court heard how the 22 charges of forgery related to individuals or couples from Derbyshire, north Derbyshire and South Yorkshire including the below complainants.