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Fraudsters posing as Canary Wharf salesmen jailed after £35m scam

PUBLISHED: 15:59 08 March 2013 | UPDATED: 18:52 09 March 2013

Three fraudsters are facing jail after conning investors out of £35million through a land banking scam.

Working under the guise of gym membership salesmen from a Canary Wharf headquarters, the gang duped more than 400 people into buying worthless plots of land between 2005 and 2010.

Defendants Daniel Webster, 29, Stephen Allan, 38 and Steven Ronald Percival, 29 – all from Bromley - were sentenced at Southwark Crown Court in one of the largest criminal fraud cases ever brought before the courts by a local authority.

A fourth defendant, 30-year-old Christopher Demetriou, of Ilford, Essex, pleaded guilty before the seven week trial began.

Speaking after Friday’s sentencing consumer minister Jo Swinson said: “This shows that scams and frauds, no matter how big or small, will be punished.

“The sheer level of deception by these fraudsters shows just how far criminals will go to take advantage of honest hard-working people.”

The investigation was the largest ever to be undertaken by Tower Hamlets Trading Standards, which worked in conjunction with the borough’s council and the Metropolitan Police to secure the convictions

Demetriou was sentenced to six years and four months in prison. Webster and Percival were handed six-and-a-half year jail terms and Allan was sentenced for seven-and-a-half years, with Judge Beddo describing the scam as cynical and merciless.

Det Insp Simon Pollock of the Metropolitan Police said: “Innocent investors were exploited for the personal financial gain of those convicted.

“We will now be using our powers under the Proceeds of Crime Act to ensure they are stripped of their criminal benefit and victims are compensated as far as possible.”

Demetriou was also handed a 10 year disqualification from being a company director, with Webster, Allan and Percival given eight year bans.

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