110 arrested in international police operation to “decimate” boiler room crime

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Last week City of London Police led the biggest ever international operation against boiler room fraud, resulting in the arrests of 110 people, mainly in Spain and the UK.

The arrests were the result of a two-year investigation, code named “Operation Rico”. A total of 17 boiler rooms have been closed down: 14 in Spain; two in the UK; and one in Serbia. Operation Rico was a joint effort between the City of London Police, the Policia Nacional in Spain, and the US Secret Service.

BBC News reports that,

Among those under investigation were 10 ‘tier one criminals’ with alleged links to organised crime and drugs, detectives said. Nine of them are British; one is South African.

The boiler rooms were cold-calling people and using high pressure sales tactics to persuade them to part with their money. The Financial Conduct Authority estimates that £200 million is lost in the UK every year to boiler room fraud.

The police have so far identified 850 victims in the UK, who have lost a total of £15 million. But the final number is expected to be very much higher.

The fraudsters steal people’s life savings and use it to fund extravagant lifestyles. In a series of raids police seized an Aston Martin, a Ferrari Spyder, a Mercedes, a BMW, a Ford Mustang, designer clothes, watches and more than £500,000 in cash. One suspect was paying £40,000 per month rent on his luxury home.

On its website, the City of London Police lists the products the boiler rooms were selling, including carbon credits:

​In 2012 the City of London Police and the Policía Nacional began forensically examining reports of investors worldwide being sold bogus shares in carbon credits, gold, renewable energy, forestry, eco projects, wine and land.

Joan Mayer, who is in her late 70s, was conned into handing over £23,000 for carbon credits. “I received a call from a very enthusiastic young man, who excited me,” she told the BBC’s Danny Shaw. The interview was broadcast on the Radio 4 Today Programme on Friday. She never saw the money again.

She told The Telegraph she had wanted to start investing and when she got the first call about carbon credits she thought “that was the beginning”.

“I was very interested in the idea so I agreed to invest and I was then sold some more carbon credits and the same seller, who by this time had become quite a pal, then suggested investing in rare earth metals.

“I had lots of brochures sent to me and he promised me that the rewards would be considerable.

“Over a period of many weeks I felt I got to know him quite well. He was very helpful and thoughtful and he kept in touch regularly.”

Another salesman then persuaded her to borrow money to buy £140,000 of shares in gold. She told the Today Programme,

“I said I haven’t got that sort of money, at all. And he said, well, you know, with respect you did take a little bit out of the house. Maybe you could go up to your maximum because you’ll be paying it back very soon. And I foolishly trusted him and I did borrow money out of my house. My generation is not very street wise. Because we never had to be.”

BBC News spoke to Detective Inspector James Clancey, from the City of London Police. Clancey said, “This is us seeking to decimate a crime type.”

Crimestoppers has launched an appeal to the public to help catch four international boiler room fraudsters:

Anyone with any information about any of these people should contact Crimestoppers.

City of London Police advises anyone who believes that they are the victim of an investment scam to contact Action Fraud. Victims can also give information about suspected investment fraud anonymously to Crimestoppers.


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13 Comments

  1. Can we get hold of the full list of the 110 people arrested? Will they all be charged? If found guilty will the courts order them to pay back investors? This is the first glimmer of hope since I lost UKPounds 200,000 to New Frontier Advisory/Eco Synergies for carbon credits.

  2. In the fullness of time I am sure more information will become available. We would all like to know if the arrests are connected with any of the familiar names involved in selling carbon credits.

  3. In Dec my step-son died intestate and amongst his odds and ends I found paperwork relating to carbon credits and geo-fuel and “release” of some of his SSIP to buy these “investments” in return for investing the remaining £45,000 in these, which he did. Because I know about SIPPs and other investments I found these odd..so carefully on the perifery I started to check and decided this was an illegal scam but did not make myself known hoping something would happen where I could do something about recovering the monies for his mother (my wife)….and this comes along. I have other loads of info including recent moving of IPI office to Dubai (including address) Please contact me.

  4. @Tony (#4): If you have information please report everything to Action Fraud.

  5. I have been researching this carbon credits business for ages…at least since Dec 2012 and have come across some interesting info. One of them had loads of data….it is called “02033489869 who is calling me” where the operation methods were listed, but unfortunately as you can see the title would give very little away. Take a look at and tell me if you have ever seen this site before!!

  6. @Tony (#6) – Thanks for this. Could you give a link website address, please? (I googled “02033489869 who is calling me”, but the only result was this: http://archive.is/3Le0D.)

  7. Here’s the name of one of the people arrested: Sam Sharpley. He was director of two companies: Profit Hunter Commodities (dissolved) and Profit Tracker Commodities. The company website offers investments in Self Storeage [sic], Brazilian Forestry, Bamboo and Film. The company also has brochures about rare earth metals.

  8. Dear Mr Lang,

    I hope for your sake you have used a pseudonym. The unfortunate beliefs that the know known fca (a name change to regain investors confidence) has actually caught anyone of importance is absolutely ridiculous. We can all point fingers and name people but the truth is we will never know who has really stolen all our money. I have been caught, I have chased my money and I have got nothing back. My belief is that the 110 people they have caught are those that the real con men allowed to be caught. Through what I have read from you, you are nothing but a useless reporter regurgitating what you have read else where. You have never lost a house, a wife, or a family to this. I unfortunately understand everyone wanting to give their version, their understanding of the situation, but if they have caught the culprits why and why on earth am I still getting calls. This Sam sharpley you talk about is and only ever will be the fall guy for something much larger than you will ever understand. Start being a real reporter, don’t regurgitate what we have already read. If you have what it takes to be someone real write something real and put yourself into that world.

  9. Hi Chris,

    Do you have the full list? Is it in the public domain? I am most interested to see who – if anyone – has been arrested from the New Frontier Advisory/Eco Synergies/Hennessey/Citadel group? Specifically Benjamin Clarke/Charles Denbigh.

    Thanks,

  10. @john (#10) – I’m sorry to hear that you’ve lost money to an investment scam.

    I have written other posts about carbon credits as investment scams and related investment scams – the posts are collected here. You’re right that the scale of these scams is large and an awful lot of people have lost their money.

    If you want me to write up your story (if you think that might help) I would be happy to do so. Please get in touch via the “Contact” button, above.

  11. @XYZ (#11) – The only name I’ve come across is Sam Sharpley, from this article in The Echo.

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