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Tip-off and collaboration secure convictions

Two men have been sentenced to jail time having pleaded guilty to money laundering offences for their part in a large and complex fraud concerning the re-sale of timeshares in 2011. 

Anthony Lea was sentenced at Reading Crown Court to three years and Ian Hollis to 18 months in absentia.

The “extremely complex investigation” began in 2016 following a complaint from a local pensioner, but it soon became clear that hundreds of UK timeshare and holiday club policyholders were repeatedly targeted by an organised crime group based in the UK and Spain.

Lea, a solicitor who had been struck off in 2001 for misusing clients’ funds and Hollis, who was a bar owner in Spain, were part of a criminal gang that manipulated hundreds of timeshare investors into paying up to £2,000 to manage their holiday policies for them.

However, once paid, the companies could not be contacted. Policyholders were then contacted by an apparently unconnected company, which offered not only to sell back the policy but also to recover the advanced fees.

Despite consumers paying thousands of pounds to these firms, the investigation found no evidence that any policies had been sold but did find that the money had passed through several UK and overseas bank accounts before being withdrawn in cash.

Lea and Hollis allowed their bank accounts to be used by the criminals in return for a fee and the investigation found that Lea had acquired criminal property amounting to more than £465,000 and Hollis had benefitted to the tune of more than £74,000.

The investigation was carried out by officers from the Public Protection Partnership (PPP) and the National Trading Standards Tri Region Investigation Team.

Speaking after the trial, a spokeswoman for the National Trading Standards team described it as “another great example of … collaboration and partnership …”

Roger Isaacs, Forensic Partner at Milsted Langdon, said: “Following money trail between various companies and accounts is a crucial aspect of any forensic accountancy investigation.

“Expert accountancy witnesses are therefore often called to provide evidence in fraud trials to help juries understand how money has flowed, often through many different countries, from victims to alleged perpetrators.

“Unlike many cases that are being investigated these days, this one appears not to have involved the use of cryptocurrencies that can make asset tracing particularly challenging”.

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