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Jail for boiler room fraudsters selling worthless land

  • Two men stole over £7.5 million from 193 victims
  •  Aggressive sales tactics were used to intimidate and defraud victims
  • The men operated out of a City address in Dowgate Hill but were shut down by officers

Two men behind a boiler room operation that stole over £7.5 million from 193 victims have been jailed for five years and nine months collectively at Southwark Crown Court, following an investigation by the City of London Police Fraud Squad.

They were sentenced as follows:

  • Drew Hales, 32, of Ramsey Close, London, was found guilty of fraud by false representation and money laundering and was sentenced to four years and three months imprisonment.
  • James Patrick Byrne, 59, of no fixed abode pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud and was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment.

Byrne was a director of the fraudulent company and Hales was a salesperson who contacted victims, exaggerated the value of land and sold it to unsuspecting victims at inflated costs by making false guarantees as to the future value. In some instances, they also sold land that they did not own. They then convinced investors that the only way they could get their money back was to invest more money so that their portfolio could be bought out by a nameless conglomerate that never existed.

The company was initially named ‘Paramount Land’ but the name changed several times during its two and half year existence, between October 2008 and March 2011

The defendants subsequently set up numerous umbrella companies in order to move money around.

The boiler room typically targeted vulnerable and elderly victims by cold-calling them and used a variety of lies, aggression and pressure to convince them to make investments in land at a grossly inflated cost.

In November 2010, the City of London Police’s Fraud Squad became aware of a suspected boiler room operation taking place in rented office accommodation in Dowgate Hill, London (EC4R). Officers started to investigate and Bryne was arrested on 3 February 2011 but the boiler room continued to function from a secret location. This was identified in March 2011 where it was shut down. In November 2011 police executed a search warrant at the home address of Drew Hales in which documentation was seized and he was arrested.

AUGUST 2017: Man arrested on suspicion of setting up a square mile ‘boiler room’

Computer evidence and documents including telephone recordings of them speaking to victims and brochures that they would send to victims, were seized from the rented offices and the defendants’ addresses. Banking material demonstrated that the defendants made large sums of money from the fraud.
City of London Police Acting Detective Inspector, Marcus McInerney, the officer in charge of the case, said:    

“These men caused unimaginable misery for their victims. They used nasty sales techniques to intimidate and deceive victims, forcing them to part with their hard-earned money. In some cases they left their victims destitute and some victims had re-mortgaged their homes because of the defendants’ lies.

“They used the money to enjoy lavish and extravagant lifestyles, adding to their victim’s humiliation.

“We are now working to recover as much of their ill-gotten gains as possible through the asset recovery procedure. This will ensure that they do not benefit from their offending and in order to achieve compensation for the victims.”

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