Pension fraudsters jailed for total of 10 years for £13.7m scam

Two pension fraudsters have been jailed for a combined total of more than 10 years for their roles in a scam that saw over 200 savers tricked into transferring £13.7m into fraudulent schemes.

Following a prosecution brought by The Pensions Regulator (TPR), Alan Barratt and Susan Dalton were sentenced at Southwark Crown Court after admitting to charges of fraud by abuse of position as trustees of pension schemes.

Barratt was sentences to five years and seven months in prison, while Dalton received a sentence of four years and eight months.

They were also banned from acting as company directors for eight years following a request by TPR.

An initial hearing to investigate whether any of the money taken can be recovered from the defendants has been set for 4 November 2022.

At a civil trial brought against the defendants by TPR in 2018, Barratt was ordered to repay around £7.7m and Dalton was told to repay approximately £5.9m.

TPR said that Barratt and Dalton were part of a criminal enterprise that persuaded 245 members of legitimate pension schemes to transfer their savings into pension schemes under the control of the defendants.

The average value of the pension savings transferred was £55,000 and had a total value of £13.7m.

Once the savings had been transferred, the pair then passed the majority of the money to ‘mastermind’ David Austin who used it for his own personal benefit, to fund his businesses, pay others involved in the pension liberation operation and enrich himself.

Austin died in 2019, before the criminal investigation was completed.

Delivering his judgment, Judge Perrins said both Dalton and Barratt had acted as principal points of contact for victims, earned substantial commission payments and were both aware that fraud was taking place.

He continued: “What is most striking is the impact on others, which has been utterly devastating. I have read 13 victims’ personal statements, they each tell a similar story, which I’m sure is representative of all.

“People who had worked hard, saved for their future and have been robbed of their financial security. I heard about depression, anxiety, divorce and suicide attempts. Each account is a story of a life ruined, and you should be ashamed of bringing such misery to so many innocent people.

“These are undoubtedly extremely serious offences in which each of you carried out the role of trustee dishonestly and, put simply, had you not done so, many people would not have had their lives ruined.”

Commenting on the ruling, Pensions Minister, Guy Opperman, said: “I welcome this sentencing and commend TPR for its role in bringing the perpetrators to justice.

“Last year’s Pension Schemes Act made pensions safer and reduced the chances of scams like this happening again. But we’re not stopping there, knowing that as scammers’ techniques evolve, so must our defences.

“That’s why we’re continuing to work side-by-side with industry, regulators and law enforcement to enhance consumer protections, stop scammers in their tracks, and make sure pension savers can enjoy the best retirement possible.”

TPR executive director of frontline regulation, Nicola Parish, added: “This is a despicable case which highlights the devastating impact pension scammers have on their victims. Barratt and Dalton were part of a criminal enterprise that tricked hundreds of savers into transferring their hard-earned pension pots into scam schemes under their control.

“In their role as trustees, the pair enabled millions of pounds to be taken from the schemes and channelled offshore, where it was used to enrich others involved in the criminal enterprise and to profit themselves.

“This prosecution and substantial custodial sentence sends a clear message that TPR and the courts will take tough action against fraudsters. Our successful extradition of Barratt from Spain also shows there’s no haven for scammers.

“Pension scams ruin lives. Savers should always be careful when making any decision to transfer a pension pot that’s taken a lifetime to build and should contact MoneyHelper, part of the Money and Pensions Service, for impartial guidance first.”

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