Three British men who were the backbone of an international organised crime gang that conned UK investors out of £80 million have today (Tuesday 23 July 2013) been jailed for a total of 43 years at a Florida court.
The sentencing of Richard Pope, Paul Gunter and Simon Odoni signifies a major milestone in a seven-year trans-Atlantic investigation by the City of London Police, working with US law enforcement agencies and supported by the Serious Fraud Office, Spanish National Police and Norfolk Police.
Detectives uncovered how at least 2,300 people in the UK, mostly retired professionals, lost money to the boiler room fraud, with individual losses ranging from a few hundred pounds up to a million pounds. Many victims lost all their savings, ruining their retirements and destroying family lives.
The origins of the fraud date back to 2004 when Pope, 55, Gunter, 64, Odoni, 56, and their co-conspirators acquired previously hijacked dormant, public-traded companies in the US which they utilised to sell UK investors worthless stock. They facilitated the fraudulent scheme by coordinating a network of Spanish boiler rooms employing hundreds of people to ruthlessly target investors using high pressure and misleading sales techniques.
The stolen funds were used to expand the criminal network and pay for extravagant lifestyles for the gang that included a £350,000 private jet, 26 properties in the US and three in the Dominican Republic, and a number of high value cars and speed boats.
The enormity of the case was first discovered when the City of London Police linked a number of investigations in the UK to those being conducted by Federal Agencies in the US.
Thereafter detectives from the National Lead Force for fraud worked closely with agents from Homeland Security Investigations, the United States Secret Service and the United States Attorney’s Office in Florida to bring the offenders to justice.
In March 2009 the United States Attorney’s Office charged seven defendants, including Pope, Odoni and Gunter with offences including money laundering and mail and wire fraud.
In March 2011 Richard Pope, from St Albans in Hertfordshire, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and a year later two US lawyers were found guilty of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
In March 2013 the trial of Gunter, originally from London, and Odoni, from Hertfordshire, took place, with Pope testifying against his fellow gang members and three UK victims travelling to Florida to give evidence. Both men were found guilty this April.
Detective Inspector Kerrie Gower, who led the investigation for the City of London Police, said: “Pope, Gunter and Odoni are among the most arrogant, ruthless and destructive criminals the City of London Police has ever dealt with and deserve every day they will spend behind bars in the US.
“Unfortunately this sentencing will not repair the huge damage they caused to the lives of thousands of people who were simply looking for a safe place to invest their money, but hopefully it will bring a measure of comfort and a sense of closure to those caught up in what was fraud committed on a truly significant scale.
“That Pope, Gunter and Odoni have now been successfully prosecuted is thanks to trans-Atlantic law enforcement cooperation, painstakingly piecing together this crime, ensuring that those involved would one day face justice.”
One man committed suicide after losing more than £200,000, including £70,000 to this gang. His widow Andrea Goswami, from Yorkshire this year travelled to Florida to give evidence against the gang.
She said: “Before my husband died he was spending day and night in front of his computer trying to work out what had happened to his investments. He stopped eating and sleeping and became more and more distant to us.
“No prison sentence is long enough for these men after the damage they caused to the lives of my family and hundreds of others, especially as they continue to show no remorse for the dreams they destroyed and the fact that many of their victims have been left with nothing.
“Going into the court room was the hardest thing I have ever had to do and it made me feel physically sick to see Gunter and Odoni in person. I have a huge amount of gratitude to both the City of London Police and US law enforcement for catching these men and giving me some peace of mind.”
The three men will serve the following prison terms:
Paul Gunter = 25 years
Simon Odoni = 13 years and 4 months
Richard Pope = 4 years and 9 months