On the web of pension scams It seems as though criminal convictions against pension scammers might be getting popular. More than a decade has gone by with virtually none of the usual suspects getting jailed – despite a few criminal investigations (that, so far, have not resulted in convictions). Is the system really that hopeless or do these criminals just know how to work it? Probably, both. But is it getting any better?
Almost all scammers and scams are, in some way, related or connected. If the earliest scammers (circa 2010) had been prosecuted and put behind bars, much of today’s damage could have been prevented.
Now that there is an intricate web of them passing around their tricks of the trade, it’s no wonder they’ve all been able to bypass the laws and regulations.
Two scammers have, however, recently been brought to justice:
Alan Barratt and Susan Dalton have recently been convicted and jailed for a £13m pension fraud – involving alleged pension investments in truffle trees.
Much of the £13m ended up in the hands of well-known scammer David Austin – who committed suicide after being caught in another pension scam (using his daughter Camilla as the “front man”).
The Barratt and Dalton scheme, was also promoted by Julian Hanson – one of the main promoters of the £27m Ark pension scam in 2010/11. Hanson’s vigorous promotion efforts resulted in £5.5m worth of Ark victims (100 in total). One of Hanson’s co-scammers was the notorious Stephen Ward of Premier Pension Solutions who was the “architect” behind the Ark scheme – along with Andrew Isles of Isles and Storer Accountants. Hanson, Ward and Isles were never prosecuted and so went on to operate and promote millions of pounds’ worth of further pension scams – ruining many thousands more lives.
Sue Dalton, after moving on from the Barratt and Dalton scheme, went to work at Continental Wealth Management in Spain – reporting to head scammer Darren Kirby and his partner Jody Smart (who was the sole director of the company). Dalton’s extensive experience in pension scamming made her a hit at CWM. Ironically, Hanson has not been jailed along with Barratt and Dalton.
Jumping forward to the present day, another jail sentence has been handed down to drug dealer Ryan Playford. In February 2022, he was convicted and imprisoned for drug-related offences:
Playford got 15 years for supplying cocaine and canabis. Clearly a wrong-un, and someone who has no respect for the law or for the wellbeing of people’s lives who would inevitably be ruined by drug abuse.
But what does Playford’s drug conviction have to do with pension scams – you may ask? We have to go back a decade to discover the answer:
In 2008, Playford and an associate – Natasha Beesley – registered a drug company in Cyprus: R. P. Med Plant. Presumably, the authorities were convinced that by “drugs”, this meant legitimate drugs for medicinal purposes.
In 2012, however, the pension scammers pounced on this Cyprus company as being the ideal sponsoring employer for another one of Stephen Ward’s pension scams: Capita Oak. Ward and his pension-lawyer friend Alan Fowler, used R. P. Med Plant Limited (Cyprus) as the so-called employer for an occupational scheme – registered by HMRC and the Pensions Regulator.
Ward and Fowler forged signatures on a trust deed for their new pension scam, and slightly changed the name of the employer to R. P. Medplant Limited (so that nobody could find it easily on the Cyprus Companies House register). It seems likely that Ward and Fowler must have known Ryan Playford somehow, in order to be able to get their hands on his drug company.
Capita Oak then became the vehicle for the scamming of 300 victims into investing their entire pensions in Store First store pods. Ward took charge of all the victims’ pension transfers, while another group of scammers took care of the cold calling of thousands of potential victims and signing up of the actual 300 victims.
This group of scammers included Nunn and McCreesh who masterminded the £80m Blackmore Bond and Blackmore Global Fund pension and investment scams.
Capita Oak’s 300 members were not the only victims invested in Store First store pods. There were thousands more in the Henley Retirement Benefits Scheme and various SIPPS including Carey (now Options and owned by STM), as well as Berkeley Burke and Rowanmoor. There have so far been no convictions – other than Playford’s for drug dealing.