Out of the blue, BBC fraud news reporter Shari Vahl got a call from a telemarketer selling a “solid” gold investment. She knew straightaway it was a scam and played along. The firm claimed to be based in London’s Hatton Garden. They “guaranteed” a return of 15% in 60 days. Like so many similar scams, this offer would turn out to be too good to be true. Vahl, a veteran reporter, started recording immediately and the fraudsters never saw her coming. Their game was up.
Vahl then met with one of the “brokers”, who introduced himself as “James Harper”. Harper went on to claim he had several well known major high street clients using his product. He also gave his address as a trading floor in the Thomson Reuters building at Canary Wharf. Following through, Thomson Reuters denied all knowledge of this company. They also confirmed they did not rent a trading floor there.
Once a file was prepared, the matter was passed by the BBC to Detective Con Barry Ryan, who led the investigation for the City of London Police’s Fraud Squad. The investigation showed the the boiler room scam had taken in about 180 victims. This included David, a retired teacher from Manchester who had lost £41,000 to the fraud. He remains devastated and ashamed at his foolishness.
Police now believe that recidivist fraudster, Paul Ward was the main planner of the fraud. Ward is currently serving a 13 year prison sentence having been repatriated from Cyprus. There were five others who laundered over £1.2m from the telemarking scam which mostly targeted seniors. They received sentences ranging from over two years in prison to 12 months’ community service. They had used their bank accounts to launder the money stolen from victims.
The Fraud Squad praised the BBC and reporter Shari Vahl for starting the official investigation. “Thanks to the endeavor and hard work of the journalist from the BBC, who initially brought this case to our attention, officers in the Fraud Squad were able to uncover the full extent of this fraud and ensure justice was served.”