Jailed: Ilford fraudster involved in £13m Ponzi scheme through property fraud

Southwark Crown Court, London

Mohammed Tanveer, 34, of Coventry Road, Ilford was sentenced at Southwark Crown Court on July 26 - Credit: PA

An Ilford fraudster involved in a group that conned investors out of more than £13 million through a "sophisticated" Ponzi scheme has been jailed.

Their company claimed to buy distressed properties along the Crossrail route - now called the Elizabeth Line from London to Essex - refurbish them and re-sell them at a profit.

Police say the group defrauded more than 800 investors, who each made payments ranging from £5,000 to £140,000 before being pressured to purchase increasingly large stakes using “boiler room” sales tactics.

Mohammed Tanveer, 34, of Coventry Road, Ilford was among seven men charged as part of the investigation.

He later pleaded guilty to both conspiracy to commit fraud and conspiracy to launder the proceeds of fraud.

Four other men were convicted of fraud and money laundering-related offences on April 22 at the same court, following an 11-week trial.

The two other accused were found not guilty.

Tanveer was jailed for five years - with half to be served in prison and the remainder on licence - as one of four men sentenced at Southwark Crown Court on July 26.

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Four of the guilty men, including Tanveer, were sentenced on July 26, with the final man due to be sentenced on September 2.

Det Con Greig Avery, of the Essex Police serious economic crime unit, said: "I want to make it clear that these men went to exceptional lengths to add credibility to their enterprise.

"They used every tactic they could think of to pretend it was an established, legitimate company and shamelessly conned hundreds of investors out of millions of pounds.

"This was a sophisticated fraud which financially impacted a large number of victims and I'm incredibly proud that we’ve been able to stop them in their tracks and bring them to justice."

The scheme began in 2015 when a dormant property company was bought and renamed Essex and London Properties Ltd (ELP).

The group running ELP used various tactics to try to convince investors they were legitimate, including renting several offices in Kent and London where they would meet with investors.

They used false Land Registry documents claiming they had purchased properties in Chelmsford, Brentwood and Colchester within their portfolio.

The group also uploaded records on company registers, which listed existing investors.

Other tactics included creating a professional brochure using photos of properties stolen from estate agents, which also included "recommended" solicitor details to suggest they were endorsed by firms.

They would also play a pre-recorded background noise during a cold call to make it sound like they were in a busy office.

ELP paid the initial interest of the first investors to keep up appearances - not from returns but using money transferred by new investors - known as a Ponzi scheme.

Any remaining money was then transferred overseas into the accounts of other companies owned by the shareholders, who also received substantial sums into their own personal bank accounts.

Police say two of the fraudsters pocketed more than £500,000 each and another gained over £250,000.

ELP only ever purchased a single property in Harwich, for less than one per cent of the total money they collected.

Investors' money was instead used to pay back those who had invested earlier and to fund the "lavish" lifestyle of those committing the fraud.

Police say this included an all-expenses paid trip to Dubai and hiring a private yacht.

Specialist fraud investigators were alerted to the company in May 2017 by an investor who thought he may have been the victim of fraud.

Within a month of the investigation starting, a court order was issued to freeze ELP's assets.

In November 2018, the company were ordered into liquidation by the High Court of Justice as a result of a winding-up petition.

Police say a confiscation hearing under the Proceeds of Crime Act will be held in due course.