Gang convicted for £1m Ponzi scheme in investment fraud case

Scammers used fake identities inspired by TV series like Suits, The Riot Club, and Hart to Hart

Sujanthan Sotheeswaran (Photo: City of London Police)

By:
Pramod Thomas

A gang that used aliases from films and TV shows have been jailed for orchestrating a cold-calling Ponzi scheme that defrauded victims of £1 million.

Scammers Sujanthan Sotheeswaran, 35, Darren Peck, 43 and Denis Deegan, 49, have employed fake identities inspired by TV series like Suits, The Riot Club, and Hart to Hart, to defraud victims.

Operating under the guise of ‘brokers’ for a company initially named Choice Option, later rebranded as Blue Crest Capital Options, they aggressively cold-called individuals, coercing them into investing in a managed account scheme, City of London Police said in a statement.

According to financial records, Sotheeswaran, Peck, and Deegan ranked among the highest-earning 20 per cent of staff. They received payments directly from investors who were cold-called and coerced by the brokers to participate in the scheme.

Investors were informed that they were prohibited from conducting trades independently, with only the brokers having the authority to execute trades.

The investment entailed depositing funds with the company, which claimed to trade on the binary options market, promising profits for both investors and the company. Investors were assured of a fixed monthly return and an overall profit after 12 months.

However, the trading platform employed by Choice Option lacked a connection to a banking system, leaving investors’ funds entirely at the discretion of the defendants. The trial established that the investment proposal was, in reality, a Ponzi scheme.

By October 2016, clients faced difficulties accessing their online accounts, reaching company staff, and withdrawing their funds. The City of London Police received first reports from investors in February 2016, suspecting the illegitimacy of the trading company.

The ‘brokers’ purportedly used aliases, including ‘Jonathan Hart’ from the 70s show Hart to Hart and ‘Miles Richards’ from the 2014 film The Riot Club. Former employees at Choice Option who used aliases such as ‘Harvey Specter’ from Suits, ‘Alister Ryle,’ and ‘Harry Villiers’ from The Riot Club were not charged, police informed.

The trio were sentenced at Southwark Crown Court on last Friday (19) after all were found guilty of one count of fraud by false representation.

Sotheeswaran, of The Forum, Molesey, was jailed for three years, while Deegan, of David Wildman Lane, received a nearly three-year prison sentence.

Peck, of Leighton Road, was sentenced to 21 months imprisonment, suspended for two years. He was also ordered to complete 25 days rehabilitation activity and 100 hours of unpaid work.

Financial investigator Hayley Wade, from the civil recovery team at the City of London Police, said, “Sotheeswaran, Peck and Deegan used elaborate and detailed marketing materials, often copied from respected trading firms, to deceive countless victims. Their custodial sentences should serve as a reminder that no matter how convincing your pitch may be and however clever you think you are, if its fraudulent then we will find out.

“Before you make an investment, seek the advice of an independent financial advisor and never risk what you can’t afford to lose, even if the investment sounds credible.”