Regulation 

Playboy adviser reveals how he took £4.5m from clients

Playboy adviser reveals how he took £4.5m from clients

A former financial adviser convicted for his involvement in a £4.5m investment fraud revealed to police officers how "easy" it was to commit his crimes.

Neil Bartlett, 53, of Delamere Road, Ainsdale, used his position as a financial adviser to defraud his friends and family, using his victims’ money to fund an extravagant lifestyle of foreign travel, top hotels and gambling.

Appearing at Liverpool Crown Court on December 21 2018, Bartlett pleaded guilty to 14 counts of fraud and asked for 14 further fraud offences to be taken into consideration.

He was sentenced to eight years in prison.

Detective Sergeant Christopher Hawitt, of the Economic Interventions team at Merseyside Police, said that following his arrest Bartlett admitted his guilt and told police how easy it had been to commit the fraud, also offering to share the loopholes he used.

Bartlett used his employment at FCA regulated Abacus Associates Financial Services to dupe his family and friends into believing he was investing their money into legitimate funds over the course of five years.

In reality, Bartlett had changed the name of his own Santander bank account to ‘Abacus Associates Ltd’ and was receiving and spending the funds transferred by his victims.

He also set up an email address with a similar name and domain to that of his employer's, in order to direct correspondence with his victims through what appeared to be a legitimate account.

Over the course of the five years, Bartlett doctored reports from legitimate Standard Life investment accounts to convince his victims their money had been successfully invested.

Det Sgt Hawitt said the statements initially appeared real and forged to a good standard, although towards the end of Bartlett's crimes the standard had become "a little sloppier".

Bartlett worked at Abacus until May 2018, whereupon he left for Russia to spend his victim's money.

Det Sgt Hawitt said Bartlett spent the vast majority of his victim's money on CMC trading and spread betting - but bank statements showed other expenditures, such as transfers made to escorts.  

Suspicions were first raised when victims began asking questions about the return of their invested money, to which Bartlett offered a variety of excuses.

When his victims learned he had travelled to Russia they contacted Abacus to enquire after their investments, only to be told they did not exist and the company were not aware of their accounts.

Action Fraud (the National Fraud & Cyber Crime Reporting Centre) received its first report from a victim of Bartlett in August 2018, going on to receive six in total which they referred to Merseyside Police.

Det Sgt Hawitt credited Bartlett's victims for their cooperation in the case, providing statements and copies of paperwork and emails which led to his arrest and prosecution.

Bartlett was flagged as flying back from Hong Kong on November 27, arrested at Manchester Airport and subsequently denied bail and remanded in custody. 

Det Sgt Hawitt said the Financial Conduct Authority had not been in touch with his team regarding the case, but the regulator should now be aware of the circumstances as Bartlett's victims had approached it for guidance.

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