St Albans conman faces 20 years in jail for shares scam
A FRAUDSTER from St Albans could face 20 years in jail after pleading guilty to a multi-million pound fraud operation described by one detective as one of the “worst crimes” he has investigated.
Between 2004 and 2008, Richard Pope, 53, was one of the leaders of an international gang that operated a Spanish boiler room scam which cost thousands of victims – including the elderly and the vulnerable – an estimated �80 million.
The scams involved selling shares that were over priced or worthless using aggressive tactics and targeted British investors and pensioners, one of whom was conned into handing over more than �800,000.
Many of the 2,300 victims were left penniless and some even destitute while Pope enjoyed a jet-set lifestyle, spending the proceeds of his crimes on lavish items including a yacht and a Ferrari.
Last Thursday (March 10) he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud in a Federal Court in Florida.
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The hearing in Tampa came just months after Pope was extradited from Spain, having been caught following an appeal on BBC’s Crimewatch after two-and-a-half years on the run.
City of London Police worked with their US counterparts to uncover how the conspirators stole the identities of dormant companies and used high-pressure sales tactics to sell millions of pounds of worthless shares.
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Mobilestream was one of the four businesses that formed part of the scam – cold-callers sold it as an up-and-coming company when in reality it was just a worthless entity.
Websites and false press releases were used to give further credibility to the gang’s bogus investment opportunities and the stolen money was funnelled off into US bank accounts, where it was used to finance the boiler room operation and enjoyed by the gang leaders.
Pope’s operation began to unravel when UK victims complained to their banks about investments made through one of his associates. After being alerted in 2006, the City of London Police investigation identified a number of accounts containing stolen money, which led them across the Atlantic and finally to Pope.
Detective Superintendent Bob Wishart, from City of London Police, said: “This is one of the worst crimes I have ever had to investigate and Richard Pope is on a par with some of the most unpleasant villains out there.
“Unfortunately his guilty plea will not bring closure to some of his victims. Their pain will never go away and this crime will scar them for life.”
US authorities arrested and charged six other people in connection with the frauds, including two other British citizens.
Continuous enquiries were made by the City of London Police, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations, Tampa, and the US Secret Service. This led to the subsequent arrest of Pope in Spain by the local authorities.
Supt Wishart added: “International collaboration is the only way you can stop international crimes and this case is a great example of law enforcement from different countries coming together to bring a dangerous and destructive criminal like Pope to justice.”
Victims of this fraud who require further information about the case and court hearings should go to www.justice.gov/usao/flm/vw or call 0800 652 5424.