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LONDON (Reuters) - A former British stockbroker who swindled investors out of 32 million pounds in a "ponzi" scheme was jailed for 13 years on Monday.
"It was a fraud from the outset, where countless lies were told. It was rank dishonesty," judge Martin Beddoe said in passing one of the longest sentences obtained by Britain's Serious Fraud Office, which brought the case.
Nicholas Levene, who pleaded guilty to charges of fraud, false accounting and obtaining a money transfer by deception, funded a "lavish lifestyle" that included expensive holidays and property in the UK and Israel.
The 48-year old, nicknamed Beano after his love of the eponymous UK's children's comic book, told investors he had bought shares on their behalf while diverting funds to his own personal, business or gambling accounts.
Investors handed Levene, a former deputy chairman at London football Club Leyton Orient, more than 250 million pounds between January 2005 and October 2009.
He paid them false "profits" out of other people's money to maintain the charade that he was a successful trader.
The scam fell apart in 2009 when investors lodged a civil action to recover their funds. By this time, Levene had spent more than 18 million pounds on property in the UK and Israel, holidays and other lifestyle expenses.
"This was a complex and extensive fraud where Nicholas Levene used investors' monies to finance a lavish personal lifestyle," Serious Fraud Office case manager Jonathan Midgeley said in a statement.
Among Levene's high-profile victims were the founders of Stagecoach, Sir Brian Souter and his sister Ann Gloag, British media has reported.
When refused his usual presidential suite at the Royal Beach Hotel in Eilat, Israel, Levene moored a super yacht outside the hotel and hosted a string of lavish parties and a firework display designed to keep the hotel owner awake, British newspapers have reported.
Reporting By Isla Binnie and Tommy Wilkes; Editing by David Cowell