A scam artist who tricked investors into believing he was a trading genius was today sentenced to seven years in prison at Southwark Crown Court.
Ben Wilson, branded a 'maestro' by lawyers for the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), operated at Ponzi-style scheme under the regulator's radar for years.
He was originally sentenced to nine and a half years but got a discount due to pleading guilty to the charges.
Wilson admitted that between January 2007 and 2010 he failed to trade investors' money as he should have, lied about the value of funds and the returns they would generate, and used client funds for his own benefit.
He had tricked investors, many of whom were closely related to friends and family, into believing he was operating on a special algorithm that regularly returned 3-7% monthly at the height of the financial crisis.
But when the Financial Services Authority (FSA) finally cracked down on him following a tip-off from a financial adviser in 2010, it transpired he had lost 300 investors an estimated £12.15m.
Wilson had set up a world of make-believe in which he acted as the 'genius' leader of a trading firm of 10 staff, trading to deliver huge returns for investors from his fictitious $160m fund.
Everything, from the office he operated from to the screens the staff traded on, was fake and even the staff didn't know that instead of trading, Wilson was using the funds on a £4m house, cars, race horses and trips.
The FCA said business records at first showed that investors were owed some £33m, but there was only £5m in cash to pay them back.
In total, over 300 investors trusted Wilson with £21.8m. When the scam was closed down by the FCA, £17.54m was owed to investors and it is estimated that £5.39m in total will be recovered.
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