TWO FRAUDSTERS have been imprisoned for conning vulnerable victims out of £36 million in a ‘boiler room’-style fraud operation. Paul Seakens, aged 60, and Luke Ryan, aged 33, were sentenced to 13 years and six years imprisonment respectively at the new specialist court Prospero House Southwark for running a business for fraudulent purposes.
Seakens and Ryan were the directors of a company based in Winchester, namely Enviro Associates, that sold Voluntary Emission Reduction (VER) carbon credits to mostly vulnerable individuals using call operatives, making false claims about the returns to be derived.
The VERs sold to clients were essentially worthless, purchased via Seakens’ London-based company CNI for very small sums and then sold by the boiler rooms – ‘Call Centres for con artists’ – to victims at vastly inflated prices (with mark-ups being between 200% and 1,000%).
The money extracted from the victims was paid directly to the bank accounts of three London-based clearing companies – specifically CNI, Tocan and Opus – all controlled by Seakens that deducted a commission and then paid the monies back to the boiler rooms.
Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) specialist fraud prosecutors stated that this clearing mechanism was simply a money laundering device. At least in part, the clearing companies were created in order to give these VER transactions an air of legitimacy such that customers would think their payments were being made to a safe Financial Conduct Authority-regulated third party and, in part, because the VER brokers would not have been able to operate without such a mechanism.
Hideous scam operation
Jane Mitchell (specialist prosecutor for the Specialist Fraud Division) commented: “This was a particularly hideous scam operation whereby the vulnerable victims lost their life savings on so-called investments that had greatly inflated return claims and no re-sale market. In each of these frauds, elderly and generally inexperienced investors were targeted. They were cold-called in their homes and pressured into buying these so-called investments by criminals who made them look genuine and trustworthy.”
Mitchell added: “The victims were conned. The products being sold were, in essence, worthless. I would like to thank the City of London Police and the Hampshire Constabulary on their excellent investigation work which enabled us to prove that Seakens and Ryan were exploiting vulnerable victims out of much needed savings for their own selfish purposes.”
Seakens was convicted of three counts of money laundering. He was imprisoned for 13 years and is under director disqualification for 12 years. Ryan was convicted of one count of fraudulent trading. Seakens was also convicted of this count. Ryan was imprisoned for eight years and is under director disqualification for six years.
The CPS is committed to working alongside the Government and law enforcement bodies to provide a multi-agency response to combat investment fraud. Its specialist fraud prosecutors are looking to seek justice in a variety of cases including those that cause the greatest harm to the public and the economy.