Two fraudsters in their 60s who conned 245 people out of £13.7MILLION by tricking them into investing in fake pension schemes are jailed for 10 years as 'devastated' victims …

view original post

Two fraudsters behind a multimillion-pound pension scam which saw almost 250 people duped out of their life savings have been jailed.

Susan Dalton, 66, and Alan Barratt, 62, helped con 245 victims out of a total of £13.7 million between 2012 and 2014.

Today, they were sentenced to four years and eight months and five years and seven months respectively at Southwark Crown Court on Friday.

The scam’s ‘mastermind’ David Austin killed himself in 2019 after being invited for a police interview under caution, the court was told.

The average amount each person lost was £55,000, but some lost many times more.

The victims of the scam have told how it ‘ruined’ their lives and left them ‘panicky’. 

Pauline Padden, 58, who lost £45,000, said the experience had ‘brought a lot of negativity and insecurity and anxiety’ into her life.

Father-of-four Stephen O’Reilly said his dream of spending his retirement in Spain and leaving money for his children were dashed after being sucked into the scam around 2013. 

Passing sentence, Judge Gregory Perrins said the pair caused ‘such misery to so many people’, with victims suffering mental health problems and some even attempting suicide.

‘Each account that I have read is a story of a life ruined by your actions and you should both be ashamed,’ he said.

Susan Dalton, 66, and Alan Barratt, 62, helped con 245 victims out of a total of £13.7 million between 2012 and 2014.

During the scam, Dalton was a trustee for four fraudulent occupational pension schemes and duped 103 victims out of just over £5.9 million, taking around £126,000 for herself, the court heard

Barratt was a trustee for six schemes and sucked in 139 victims and over £7.7 million of their savings, personally profiting by around £343,000, the judge was told

The court was told Dalton and Barratt, who were based in Spain, enticed savers with the promise of unrealistic returns, cash bonuses, and John Lewis vouchers before getting them to transfer their pensions from legitimate schemes to fraudulent ones.

The judge was told the cash bonuses, which victims were led to believe were part of a commission payment from the new schemes, were actually taken from their savings.

The pair were said to have passed the lion’s share of the money to Austin, who used it for his own personal benefit, to fund his businesses, pay others involved in the operation and enrich himself and family members.

During the scam, Dalton was a trustee for four fraudulent occupational pension schemes and duped 103 victims out of just over £5.9 million, taking around £126,000 for herself, the court heard.

Meanwhile, Barratt was a trustee for six schemes and sucked in 139 victims and over £7.7 million of their savings, personally profiting by around £343,000, the judge was told.

Victims of pension fraud say it ‘ruined’ their lives 

Pauline Padden, 58, who lost £45,000, said the experience had ‘brought a lot of negativity and insecurity and anxiety’ into her life.

The mother-of-three, who has worked as a critical care nurse in the NHS since she was 18, fell victim to the scam after receiving a text promising higher returns on her pension and bonuses for transferring her current pension funds.

As she was spending much of her time caring for her dying mother in 2013, she was unable to make a steady income and was drawn in by the promise of extra cash.

Fraud victim Pauline Padden, 58

She said: ‘I’m 58 and I’ve got no thought at all about retiring and all around me; friends, family, colleagues, they’re all talking about their retirement and what they’re going to do, and I can’t do any of that because that’s been taken from me.

‘Whoever did this had every intention of taking it off hard-working people basically. And they have just robbed my retirement from me, it’s gone now.

‘I do worry about it a lot, my family are concerned about because they know I worry about it.

‘I don’t trust very well because obviously I was scammed in this way so it’s brought a lot of issues into my life that I didn’t have before, which I didn’t think I would have going into my old age.’

Ms Padden found out she had been scammed about six months later when she received a call from a trustee of the Pensions Regulator, which regulates work-based pension schemes in the UK, telling her it was a fraud.

She added: ‘When I think about it I do get a bit panicky because I think, ‘what am I going to do?’ and there’s absolutely nothing I can do, absolutely nothing, and I’m just left in this helpless position now.’

Father-of-four Stephen O’Reilly said his dream of spending his retirement in Spain and leaving money for his children were dashed after being sucked into the scam around 2013.

The 61-year-old former miner from Doncaster now lives on the Isle of Wight and works in a bookmaker to support himself.

Father-of-four Stephen O’Reilly

Mr O’Reilly transferred £114,000 to the scammers after being told he was getting a bad deal on his current pension by someone he thought was an independent Government pension adviser.

He said he had requested a review and was referred by the fake adviser to speak to Dalton on the phone, who persuaded him to hand over his savings.

It was not until he came to claim his pension that he found out it was a scam.

Mr O’Reilly was told he was due a lump sum and had ordered a car which he was left desperately trying to find the money for, having to borrow from his mother to pay for it.

He said: ‘If I could get my hands on them, you’d see. They’ve ruined my life.

‘Now I’m just depressed all the time because I know I’m going to have to work the rest of my life because there’s no money there.

‘I was going to move to Spain but I can’t now because I haven’t got any money to move in the first place, and I would have to get a job and have enough money to fund myself while I’m finding a job. It’s totally ruined my life.’

Mr O’Reilly, who worked in the mines for 14 years, added: ‘I averaged probably 80 hours a week and I was putting a lot more money into my pension than anybody else that was there and now it’s all gone.’

Advertisement

Mother-of-three Ms Padden, who has worked as a critical care nurse in the NHS since she was 18, fell victim to the scam after receiving a text promising higher returns on her pension and bonuses for transferring her current pension funds.

As she was spending much of her time caring for her dying mother in 2013, she was unable to make a steady income and was drawn in by the promise of extra cash.

She said: ‘I’m 58 and I’ve got no thought at all about retiring and all around me; friends, family, colleagues, they’re all talking about their retirement and what they’re going to do, and I can’t do any of that because that’s been taken from me.

‘Whoever did this had every intention of taking it off hard-working people basically. And they have just robbed my retirement from me, it’s gone now.

‘I do worry about it a lot, my family are concerned about because they know I worry about it.

‘I don’t trust very well because obviously I was scammed in this way so it’s brought a lot of issues into my life that I didn’t have before, which I didn’t think I would have going into my old age.’

Ms Padden found out she had been scammed about six months later when she received a call from a trustee of the Pensions Regulator, which regulates work-based pension schemes in the UK, telling her it was a fraud.

She added: ‘When I think about it I do get a bit panicky because I think, ‘what am I going to do?’ and there’s absolutely nothing I can do, absolutely nothing, and I’m just left in this helpless position now.’

Father-of-four Mr O’Reilly said his dream of spending his retirement in Spain and leaving money for his children were dashed after being sucked into the scam around 2013.

The 61-year-old former miner from Doncaster now lives on the Isle of Wight and works in a bookmaker to support himself.

Mr O’Reilly transferred £114,000 to the scammers after being told he was getting a bad deal on his current pension by someone he thought was an independent Government pension adviser.

He said he had requested a review and was referred by the fake adviser to speak to Dalton on the phone, who persuaded him to hand over his savings.

It was not until he came to claim his pension that he found out it was a scam.

Mr O’Reilly was told he was due a lump sum and had ordered a car which he was left desperately trying to find the money for, having to borrow from his mother to pay for it.

He said: ‘If I could get my hands on them, you’d see. They’ve ruined my life.

‘Now I’m just depressed all the time because I know I’m going to have to work the rest of my life because there’s no money there.

‘I was going to move to Spain but I can’t now because I haven’t got any money to move in the first place, and I would have to get a job and have enough money to fund myself while I’m finding a job. It’s totally ruined my life.’

Mr O’Reilly, who worked in the mines for 14 years, added: ‘I averaged probably 80 hours a week and I was putting a lot more money into my pension than anybody else that was there and now it’s all gone.’

A civil trial brought by The Pensions Regulator against Austin, Barratt, Dalton and others took place at the High Court in 2018, after which the trio were ordered to repay millions in ill-gotten gains.

However, the funds, most of which were transferred to offshore accounts, have never been recovered, the court was told.

The judge heard Kent firefighter Glenn Perkins, who transferred £146,000 to the scammers in 2013, felt ‘worthless and useless’ and now struggles with mental health problems.

Another man, referred to as Mr Holloway, handed over £300,000 and has been left ‘devastated’.

The judge was told Dalton and Barratt ‘deceived’ banks in Britain into believing they were in the UK in order to open accounts.

A solicitor was also instructed to send disgruntled victims comfort letters and threaten legal action, the court was told.

The scam included the creation of shell companies set up to pose as named employers for the fraudulent occupational pension schemes, while Barratt and Dalton were named as directors, the judge heard.

Barratt, of Althorne, Essex, and Dalton, of Rochdale, Lancashire, admitted one count each of fraud by abuse of position.

However, speaking on behalf of Barratt, Senghin Kong said the defendant had been kept in the dark about many aspects of the scheme and was ‘a tool to be used’ by Austin.

‘Mr Barratt had only a limited awareness and understanding to everything that Mr Austin was doing. Plainly, he was chosen by Mr Austin because he was unsophisticated,’ he told the court, adding Barratt was ‘profoundly sorry’.

George Payne, representing Dalton, told the court that while she had acted improperly as a trustee, she believed the pensions schemes were legitimate and even convinced her own brother to invest £250,000.

In a statement read to the court, she said she felt ‘huge remorse’ for her role in the scam, adding: ‘I want to sincerely apologise to all those who have been affected, including my own brother.’

In addition to their jail terms, both have been banned from being directors of companies for eight years.

A confiscation hearing, to recover what might remain of the profits of the scam, is set to take place in November.