Five individuals have been sentenced to 17.5 years' imprisonment for a boiler room fraud which led to investors losing more than £2.8 million.
This is the Financial Conduct Authority's (FCA) second largest ever criminal prosecution, dubbed Operation Tidworth.
Five defendants, Charanjit Sandhu, Hugh Edwards, Stuart Rea, Jeannine Lewis and Ryan Parker were sentenced at Southwark Crown Court. The sixth defendent, Michael Nascimento, who will be sentenced on 14 September, was the 'controlling mind, instigator and the main beneficiary of the fraud', the FCA said.
They were charged by the FCA with offences of conspiracy to defraud, fraud, money laundering and perverting the course of justice, as well as breaches of FSMA.
Mark Steward, executive director of enforcement and market oversight, said: 'These fraudsters callously targeted investors who were often elderly and vulnerable, lying to them to get them to part with significant sums of money. Despite efforts to conceal and destroy evidence, the FCA, in one of its largest ever investigations, was able to ensure that these criminals faced justice and ended up behind bars.'
Sandhu, who was a senior broker, was sentenced to five and a half years' imprisonment. Edwards and Rea were both sentenced to three years and nine months each. The trio are also prohibited from the sale of any form of investment or involvement in financial services for five years after release from prison. They are also banned from being company directors, along with Parker, for periods of between seven and 14 years.
Parker received a two years sentence, suspended for 18 months, while Lewis will go to prison for two and a half years.
The charges were bought following an FCA probe in to four alleged boiler room operations based in London’s Docklands, all promoting the sale of shares in Atlantic Equity LLC.
The FCA at the time alleged that the defendants were involved in the promotion of investments schemes between July 2010 and April 2014 that claimed to offer participation in a commercial development in Madeira.
It was estimated that a total of 175 investors may have lost £2.75 million.
During the trial Judge Hehir said: 'None of the victims chose to be swindled, others chose to swindle them. No victim of these sort of offences should blame themselves. Those who commit these offences cannot expect anything but firm punishment.'