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Three jailed for £27.5m boiler room shares scam

1,700 UK investors conned in long-running scam

Three men have this week been jailed for boiler room fraud totaling £27.5m. The sentence follows a long investigation by the Financial Services Authority (FSA), City of London Police (CoLP) and Eurojust, the EU body responsible for fighting cross-border organised crime.

Tomas Wilmot, the ringleader of the operation, was sentenced to nine years’ imprisonment, while his sons Kevin and Christopher were each given five years’ imprisonment. The three were found guilty of four offences of conspiracy to defraud – these four offences alone resulted in £14 million of losses.

The Wilmots ran a syndicate of boiler rooms, which sold millions of low value, worthless and sometimes non-existent shares to victims in the UK. An estimated 1,700 investors were conned out of £27.5 million in total. Many of the victims were elderly and, in some cases, suffering from serious illnesses.

How did the FSA uncover the boiler room scam?

The Wilmots were implicated in a scam during searches conducted in relation to another boiler room investigation in late 2007. The FSA commenced a formal investigation in July 2008.

In May 2009, 93 FSA and City of London Police (CoLP) investigators carried out a series of coordinated searches at the home addresses of the suspects in Guildford and Horsham, and at their office in Bramley, Surrey. During the raids 48 digital items (such as computer hard drives and other storage devices) were seized, along with 67,000 documents.

The court process

The Wilmots were charged in June 2009 and went to trial in May 2011. By the time the case reached the courts, investigators had produced 21,000 documents in evidence and 350 witness statements – 85 of whom were victims of the boiler rooms.

Tracey McDermott, the FSA’s acting director of enforcement, said: ‘This was a highly sophisticated scam that made use of offshore structures to launder the funds, put distance between the Wilmots and the boiler rooms, and ultimately disguise the nature of the business. That meant that what started out as a UK-based FSA investigation had to evolve into a joint, then global, operation to bring the perpetrators to justice.

‘The individuals convicted sought to cloak their activities within an aura of respectability to deceive investors, many of whom were vulnerable or elderly. They are, however, nothing more than cold-hearted criminals who profited from stealing other people’s money.’

Detective Superintendent Bob Wishart, from CoLP, said: ‘The Wilmots were the architects of a major network of criminality that ruthlessly targeted some of the most vulnerable people in our society, stealing their savings and ruining their lives. Thanks to this multi-agency investigation their international boiler room fraud has been dismantled and they are now facing several years behind bars.’

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