LONDON Two men who tricked hundreds of UK investors into buying inflated or worthless shares in a 70 million-pound "boiler-room" scam were sentenced to a total of almost 16 years in jail on Friday.
Jeffrey Revell-Reade, a 49-year-old Australian, and 58-year-old Anthony May were convicted of conspiracy to defraud by a London court on Wednesday in connection with the Madrid-based scam that duped at least 1,000 investors.
Sentencing the pair, Judge Michael Gledhill said the case showed that fraud was far from being a victimless crime.
"Many investors lost every penny they had ... the consequences of those losses have been dreadful and in some consequences catastrophic," the judge said.
Boiler-room scams are typically unregulated overseas-based phone sales operations that tend to target elderly or vulnerable victims and bully them into buying fake or overvalued stock with high-pressure sales tactics.
Revell-Reade and May were convicted after a seven-year investigation by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO).
In their scheme, sales teams in Madrid sold shares in U.S.-listed companies on a fraudulent basis. Investors bought "restricted" shares, which they were unable to sell for 12 months. These turned out to be worthless and in shell companies or firms which were not operating.
It targeted British-based investors, including professionals, with some losing their entire life savings. One "invested" $1.2 million.
Revell-Reade, described as the "controlling mind" of the operation, was handed a jail term of eight years and six months, while May was ordered to spend just over seven years behind bars, the SFO said in a statement on Friday.
Revell-Reade was also disqualified from being a director of a company for 12 years and May for 10 years, the SFO said.
Six people have already been jailed and a 62-year-old woman handed a suspended jail sentence as a result of the SFO investigation.
(Reporting by Clare Hutchison; Editing by Pravin Char)