Hundreds conned by £12m boiler room fraudsters



Three crooks who laundered funds fraudulently obtained from 350 people tricked into investing more than £12m in a boiler room fraud were sentenced on Friday.

Some of the hundreds of victims lost much of their retirement savings.

Leader Jonathan Arafiena, 35, of Nine Elms, Wandsworth, was sentenced to five-years-and-nine-months in prison at Southwark Crown Court.

He also received a serious crime prevention order (SCPO) which will prevent him from being registered as a director of a company in the future.

Of the two others, Kofi Ofori-Duah of Wanstead, 43, was sentenced to two-years suspended for 18 months, and Ashlee Morgan of Clapham, 35, for 14 months, suspended for 18 months.

All three pleaded guilty to laundering money obtained from the boiler room fraud where victims were pressurised into buying shares or making investments in the expectation of huge returns that never materialised.

Victims were offered investments in either commodities, traditional share dealing, binary options, cryptocurrency, and/or initial public offerings. The offending took place between 1 January 2016 and 24 September 2019.

Some of the victims invested tens of thousands of pounds they had saved for their retirement and will have to continue working for longer than they planned. The largest amount lost by a single victim was £300,000.

The police investigation identified more than 310 victims of the fraud.

A number of victims reported their losses to Action Fraud in 2018 claiming they were unable to retrieve their investment, or even get in contact with the brokers who initially contacted them.

An investigation by City of London Police showed a number of bank accounts, more than 50 in total, were linked to the Action Fraud reports. All the accounts were set up online using ID obtained from persons who allowed their documents to be used in return for a financial incentive, or victims who had previously been coerced into sharing identification documents.

The money was subsequently transferred from account to account, including crypto currency accounts and, on occasions, transferred to foreign jurisdictions such as the UAE and Lithuania.

Mr Arafiena was the leading figure in the criminal group and enjoyed a life of luxury, including renting high-end flats in the heart of London overlooking the Thames, buying high-end luxury cars, paying a £14,000 annual membership to a lifestyle management service and buying expensive designer products.

A Rolls Royce Wraith, as well as gold bullion and luxury jewellery such as a Cartier bracelet and Rolex and Patek Phillipe luxury watches were seized by officers during a warrant in 2019. These are due to be auctioned soon with the proceeds used to pay back the victims some of what they lost.

Detective Inspector Gareth Dothie, from the fraud operations team at the City of London Police, said: “Mr Arafiena masterminded one of the biggest investment fraud cases that we have dealt with. We estimate that over £12m was taken from hundreds of victims over a two and a half year period. Mr Arafiena led an extravagant lifestyle. Unfortunately for him he is now facing a lengthy sentence behind bars.”

There will be further court hearings for all three, as the CPS goes after them to strip them of the proceeds of their offending.

Siân Mitchell, a Crown Prosecution Service specialist prosecutor, said: “The money that these criminals laundered came from a highly sophisticated and professional fraud that has devastated the lives of hundreds of hard-working people, who were tricked into investing in bogus companies. Victims have had their lives and future plans irreparably damaged, with hopes for retirement or leaving an inheritance for children and grandchildren destroyed.  

“The CPS will now legally pursue all three to strip them of the proceeds of their offending.”


 



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