A retired lecturer from Aberdeen was among the victims scammed out of thousands of pounds by a criminal gang that included Victoria Beckham’s former brother-in-law.
The 80-year-old lost almost £20,000 to The Commodities Link (TCL) scam that convinced investors they could make big returns on rare earth metals, when the reality was exactly the opposite.
Darren Flood – previously married to the former Spice Girls star’s sister Louise Adams – was a director in a firm that cold-called unsuspecting members of the public, mainly the elderly, and persuaded them to invest thousands of pounds in practically worthless materials, falsely promising big returns.
The 40-year-old was handed a 30-month jail sentence at Kingston Crown Court yesterday.
The north-east pensioner said the scam “turns you off humanity”.
He said: “My retirement has been ruined. They haven’t just robbed my money, they’ve robbed me of so much time that I have spent on the phone, or writing letters, trying to get my money back. The time wasted is colossal.”
Another victim – an 83-year-old woman from Woking – lost her entire life savings of more than £179,000.
The scammers used glossy brochures and a professional-looking website, which even included an apparent anti-money laundering policy, as part of their bid to fool investors.
While Surrey Police said the force is aware of 24 victims who invested more than £800,000, the true scale of the crimes is believed to be much larger, with up to 30 more victims, who officers believe did not wish to come forward due to embarrassment at having been fooled.
Flood, of Ware Road in Hertford, who owned almost a quarter of The Commodities Link (TCL), was part of the business alongside his half-brother Jonathan Docker and their cousin Gennaro Fiorentino.
Wearing a dark suit with a blue shirt and tie, Flood gave no visible reaction as he was sentenced.
Fiorentino, 38, of Wetherell Road in Hackney, played “the leading role” in the company, Judge Carroll said, jailing him for five years.
Qualified accountant Mark Whitehead, from Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, had acted as the company’s finance director.
The 60-year-old, who the court heard was previously cautioned for fraud, was handed a three-and-a-half-year sentence.
TCL’s office manager Vikki King, 39, from Basildon, broke down in tears as she was jailed for 27 months.
The court heard the mother-of-four had previously been given a suspended sentence for benefit fraud.
All four defendants had denied conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation but were convicted by a jury in November last year.