Horsham conman helped defraud hundreds of people out of millions

William Berkeley SUS-171105-154957001
William Berkeley SUS-171105-154957001

A Horsham man was among a gang who duped hundreds of people out of nearly £8 million in savings and pensions during a precious metals investment scam.

The gang cold-called customers with scripted patter and placed ads using a misleading website and inaccurate glossy brochure offering people a chance to buy supposedly lucrative metals vital to most of the world’s industry.

And at Blackfriars Crown Court this week gang ringleaders Christopher Sabin, 44, from Sevenoaks and Tobias Ridpath, 52,from Hastings, were each jailed for nine years.

Prolific salesman Nicholas Start, 35, from Tadley, Hampshire, received seven years and William Berkeley, 52, of Chichester Terrace, Horsham - who joined the scam near its conclusion - was jailed for four years.

All four were convicted of conspiring to defraud investors by making false representations. Now a Proceeds of Crime Act hearing will be held to confiscate their profits.

The court heard that Sabin and Ridpath set up a company called Denver Trading in the City amd began their massive fraud.

One typical investor, Cecil McMurray, invested £243,000 and the court was told that he “lost a vast amount of money.”

Another client bought what he thought was 100 kilos of rare metals in September 2012 for £39,000 and two-and-a-half years later that investment was worth £285.

Prosecutor David Durose said the fraud lasted for about a year from spring 2012 and referring to the investors he said : “Not one of them have made a penny and they have lost pension pots and life savings.

“The losses are in the millions and millions of pounds. They were duped into investing.”

Judge Rajeev Shetty said: “All the buyers have ended up with worthless barrels of junk, either gathering dust or have long since been disposed of. The loss to them has been total, no one has made one pound back.”

He told the fraudsters: “The jury found this was all a scam, a ruthless vehicle designed to rip-off people of their savings and pension pots to make you all wealthy.

“Making as much money as possible was the name of the game and that game is now up.”

Investors were wooed with promises of returns on investments in Rare Earth Metals and Rare Earth Elements, which were vital in engineering and manufacturing.

The judge described the gang’s sales’ practices as “threatening and intimidating” with over 600 investors deceived.

He added : “Many were retired, some of advancing years, likely to be vulnerable and they were targeted without remorse.”

Sabin and Ridpath have each been disqualified from running a company for 15 years. Start has been banned for ten years and Berkeley for six.