Click here to listen to Two Scammers Caught in Rare Earths Fraud podcast

This is an example of the classic investment scam where ‘boiler rooms’ (i.e. crooked call centres) phone large numbers of people offering a ‘too good to be true’ investment.  It is often targeted at retired people.

 The scam works by offering what sounds like a great investment but it is something that is very cheap for the scammers to get or alternatively the investment product doesn’t even exist.

The investment may be in housing stock in some distant city or in a hotel in an exotic location or in garages in central London or even in burial plots in a place where there is a shortage of plots or just new company shares or could be anything else.

This specific scam involved ‘rare earth metals’. These are a class of metals that are mostly mined in China and used in much of modern electronics including mobile phones. 

Investors paid a total of £2 million and believed they would make huge profits out of the rising value of “rare earths”.

The Court Case

James Anthony Oorloff, 31 of Ascot and John Keith Dickinson, 33 of Billingshurst ran Acquire Assets Ltd then setup Austin Leigh Ltd to carry on the same business, promoting themselves as wholesalers in commodities.

Both companies used 11 different ‘boiler room’ operations to pressure sell rare earth metals and then buy, import and store small quantities of rare earth metals on behalf of the investors .

A typical victim would spend £5,500 buying a basket of five different rare earth metals.

Acquire Assets paid the boiler room £3,000 commission (from the £5,500); spent £1,269 actually buying the metals; a flat fee of £95.80 to store the metals and a further £40.36 per year for insurance. This left Acquire with a profit of around £1,094.88 (20%) and the investor needing an increase in value of 456% over 3 years just to break even on the deal. 

The scammers did actually buy some rare earth metal but this was pointless as they bought a small number of 1Kg blocks. These are useless, as rare earths are sold in tonnes not kilos and what they have is worthless.

In court, the prosecutor held up a block of rare earth for the jury to see and described it as worthless and said that it’s only use would be as a door stop.

The Verdict

They were found guilty of two offences of fraudulent trading at Guildford Crown Court on November 22, 2016.

The two fraudsters were jailed after tricking unsuspecting investors into handing over almost £2million and then blowing the cash on a champagne lifestyle.

Passing sentence, Judge Neill Stewart said: “The nature of cold calling people at home means that it is likely to impact on retired people who are unlikely to be sophisticated investors.

“These offences are too serious for anything other than an immediate custodial sentence.”

Dickinson, was sent to prison for seven years and disqualified from being a company director for 10 years.

Oorloff, was jailed for four and a half years and disqualified from being a company director for seven years.

Good riddance, at least for a few years.

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