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Horsham gambler jailed for scams netting £750,000
12:21pm Wednesday 22nd January 2014 in News
A compulsive Horsham gambler who conned clients out of more than £750,000 by offering deals on high profile sporting events has been jailed.
James Edward Maxwell, who ran three sports memorabilia and hospitality companies, spun a web of lies in order to persuade wealthy clients and charities to hand over cash, including claims that his young son had been diagnosed with cancer.
The 41-year-old, who lived in Sittingbourne at the time of the offences, defrauded customers by asking them to transfer cash into his business account for goods, but gave his personal bank details, took cash and used funds in the business account as his own, a police spokesman said.
Maxwell auctioned off sports hospitality packages to the Monaco and British Grand Prix at charity events, private functions and to clients, he said.
He lured customers into handing over tens of thousands of pounds for dream encounters with sports stars including Formula One drivers and football players, and accommodation on a super-yacht owned by motorsport tycoon Eddie Jordan, police said.
Maxwell claimed he could offer the deals at cost price because he had "connections" with the celebrities, even though he had never met any of them, according to the force spokesman.
Customers would be told days before that the yacht had been double-booked or the deal had been cancelled, only for Maxwell to promise to invest their money into another package, which never materialised, he said.
Maxwell also assumed the identity of one of his colleagues and made up other aliases to protect his own reputation and convince clients they were dealing with a larger company, he continued.
Friends and customers were manipulated into investing in two of his businesses, Sports Idols and Premier Signings and Hospitality, by professing "cash flow" troubles and promising money back with interest, police said.
Other clients grew suspicious when Maxwell made excuses and forgot which alias he was supposed to be using, and discovered that the deals would cost so much in reality that the prices he was offering were unrealistic.
When challenged, Maxwell claimed that his father had just died. He also claimed to have been diagnosed with testicular cancer and told one client he was struggling to keep his finances straight as his young son had been diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer, the police spokesman said.
Maxwell promised refunds and insisted he had made bank transfers, which investigators later proved never left his account, or he would write cheques for huge amounts that would immediately bounce, he added Maxwell also defrauded investors in a Spanish property scheme and began offering clients cut-price luxury package holidays to New York and St Lucia, leaving them furious when they discovered he had not even booked them a flight after taking their money, according to police.
Officers from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate spent months following Maxwell's messy paper trail and analysing financial accounts to find he had gambled most of the money away, spending thousands in a single day. He also paid for luxury holidays for his family.
Maxwell pleaded guilty to 17 charges of fraud and offences under the Fraudulent Trading Companies Act 2006, with 37 other offences taken into account, and was jailed for three years at Maidstone Crown Court on Friday.
He was also disqualified from holding any limited company position for 10 years.
His father-in-law, Terence Boswell, from Surrey, was given a nine-month suspended sentence after pleading guilty to two counts of transferring criminal property.
DC Steve Payne, from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, said: "Maxwell has a gambling problem.
"His account went from dizzying highs to lows in just days as he would take his clients' cash and gamble it all away.
"As the net began closing in, he made even riskier moves in an attempt to keep the money coming in, but our investigators followed his every financial move.
"To see him in the dock and to know he is behind bars is to see the result of years' worth of work by the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate come to fruition."
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