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A former bank manager and her half-brother have been sentenced to a total of 12 and a half years for conning people including their family and friends out of more than £2million.
Caryn Bates, 41, of Cowden, Edenbridge, and Matthew Sullivan, 53, from Dymchurch, pleaded guilty to the investment fraud at an earlier hearing on 5 September at Maidstone Crown Court.
Investigations by officers from the Serious Economic Crime Unit found the pair used Bates’ experience from her career as a bank manager to convince their victims to part with their money.
Both Bates and Sullivan used their knowledge of the stock markets and industry background to dupe investors into ploughing money into the bogus scheme, called “World Trading”, which began in March 2006 and carried on until October 2010.
Many used their life savings to get into the project, which Bates and Sullivan promised them would deliver a guaranteed return of between two and five per cent per month.
Nearly 40 victims were identified in the police investigation, many of them from Kent as well as up to 10 in Spain.
Some of the money was used to give the promised monthly returns to other investors to keep up the façade that the scheme was working, in the familiar style of a classic “Ponzi” scheme. But the majority of the cash was used to fund Sullivan’s gambling interests and to maintain his and Bates’ lifestyle.
In 2009, when a growing number of clients started to ask for their money back, Sullivan started offering them three month bonds, offering a guaranteed return of five per cent per month. It was not until late 2010 that the majority of investors realised their money was in grave jeopardy.
Fobbed off investors
Sullivan and Bates fobbed off disgruntled investors with excuses about the length of time to release money from offshore accounts but in 2011 the fraud was brought to a halt as a result of complaints made to police by upset clients who were unable to obtain repayment of their money.
On Thursday, November 14, Sullivan was sentenced to seven years in prison, while Bates was ordered to serve a five years and six months sentence.
Both have been disqualified from being a company director for 10 years and Sullivan will be the subject of a crime prevention order for five years after his release.
Detective Constable Mark Agnew, from the Serious Economic Crime Unit carried out a complex investigation including sifting through a vast amount of data from betting companies and bank accounts as well as overseas companies to find out where the money had gone.
DC Agnew said: ‘Sullivan and Bates conned their family and friends out of millions of pounds.
‘Their clients trusted them to invest their money wisely and legally with the promise of solid returns on their capital. What they didn’t realise, until it was too late, was Sullivan and Bates used the cash to fund their lifestyle.
‘They were happy to live off their family and friends’ life-savings without a care in the world’.