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4 jailed over Ponzi-style fraud in Britain

FOUR men were sentenced to a total of more than 10 years in jail on Friday after conning investors out of around US$10 million in a Ponzi-style fraud, British investigators said.

Investors put at least US$100,000 a time into the British-based scheme that promised returns of up to 100 percent within 12 months through a bank trading program.

Their money was either recycled to pay earlier investors or sunk in to an aborted scheme to extract gold from spent ore.

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) said it was one of the most complex investigations it and Cheshire Police had ever conducted. About 30 investors from the United States, the Netherlands, Bulgaria, Hungary, Canada, Spain, the United Kingdom and Singapore were affected.

The scam was run by former Cheshire police officers Frederick Taylor and Martin Shaughnessy, solicitor Christopher Darke, businessman Paul de Rome and financial consultant Ian Whittock, the SFO said.

Taylor and Shaughnessy lured wealthy individuals between 1996 and 1998 to invest in two companies -- Maincrest Investments and London & General Finance.

De Rome was sentenced to 46 months at Liverpool Crown Court after he pleaded guilty.

Taylor was jailed for 36 months and Darke 28 months for conspiracy to defraud. Whittock was given a 14-month sentence on the same charge, suspended for two years.

Shaughnessy was sentenced to 16 months in September 2008.


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