Two fraudsters face jail for a multimillion-pound pension scam that saw nearly 250 people go without their savings. Susan Dalton, 66, and Alan Barratt, 62, face years in prison for defrauding 245 victims out of a total of £13.7million between 2012 and 2014, Southwark Crown Court heard on Friday.
However, the “mastermind” of the scam, David Austin, killed himself in 2019 after being asked for a police interview on bail, the court heard. The average amount lost by each person was £55,000, but some lost many times that amount, along with their future security.
The court heard how Dalton and Barratt, who were based in Spain, lured savers with the promise of unrealistic returns, cash bonuses and even John Lewis vouchers before tricking them into transferring their pensions from legitimate schemes to schemes fraudulent.
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A judge heard how cash bonuses, which victims were led to believe were part of a commission payment from the new schemes, were in fact taken from their savings. The couple reportedly passed on the lion’s share of the money to Austin, who used it for his own personal gain, to fund his businesses, pay others involved in the deal and enrich himself and his family members. .
During the scam, Dalton was a trustee of four fraudulent occupational pension schemes and duped 103 victims out of a total of just over £5.9million, taking around £126,000 for herself, the court said. During this time Barratt was a trustee of six schemes and sucked 139 victims and more than £7.7million from their savings, profiting around £343,000 personally, the judge heard.
A civil lawsuit brought by The Pensions Regulator against Austin, Barratt, Dalton and others took place in the High Court in 2018, after which the trio were ordered to pay back the millions in ill-gotten gains. However, the funds, much of which was transferred to offshore accounts, were never recovered, the court heard.
The judge heard a Kent firefighter, Glenn Perkins, who transferred £146,000 to the crooks in 2013, felt ‘worthless and useless’ and is now struggling with mental health issues after falling victim to the scam. Another man, called only Mr Holloway in court, handed over £300,000 and was ‘devastated’.
The judge heard how, despite being based in Spain, Dalton and Barratt ‘tricked’ UK banks into thinking they were in the UK in order to open accounts. A lawyer had also been instructed to send letters of comfort to disgruntled victims and threaten them with legal action, the court said.
The scam also included the creation of shell companies, created to pose named employers for the fraudulent occupational pension schemes while Barratt and Dalton were named administrators, the judge said. However, speaking on behalf of Barratt, Senghin Kong said the defendant was kept in the dark about many aspects of the scheme and was “a tool to be used” by Mr Austin.
“Mr. Barratt had only limited knowledge and understanding of anything Mr. Austin did. Obviously, he was chosen by Mr. Austin because he was unsophisticated,” he said. he told the court, adding that Barratt was “deeply sorry.”
Barratt, of Burnham Road, Althorne, Essex, and Dalton, of Brookdale, Rochdale, Lancashire, will be convicted of one count each of fraud by abuse of position.
The hearing continues.
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