Bogus ‘horse feed’ business man jailed following £1m scheme
A serial fraudster has been jailed after his friends and colleagues invested more than £1 million in a fake business, before the funds were squandered away through poor stocks, share investments and gambling.
Branko Sevic, 47 of Blays Lane, Englefield Green, was sentenced to five years, seven months at Guildford Crown Court earlier today (Wednesday, 5 December).
Investigating officer, PC Garvanovic of the Staines Local Proactive Unit, said: “Sevic’s damning bank statements reveal the true extent of his fraudulent activity. Over the past five years, he has exploited former work colleagues and friends, encouraging them to invest in his Ponzi scheme which was fronted by a fake business.
“Friends and colleagues transferred large values of money to invest in what they believed was a lucrative horse feed supply business opportunity.
“Sevic admitted to two of his victims and also during a police interview that the business did not exist and that there was no money left. He left his home each morning telling his family that he was running a business however bank statements show Sevic frequented coffee shops where he’d access Wifi and spend tens of thousands of pounds on online gambling sites and designer clothing instead.
“In court today, Sevic was given a higher sentence due to the impactful victim personal statements, revealing in detail the devastating impact his crimes had on the victims’ families.
“I hope the sentence given to Sevic gives some comfort to those affected and demonstrates to others that fraudulent activity is a serious offence which we won’t tolerate in Surrey. Our advice is that if something sounds too good to be true, it most probably is.”
A total of ten victims were identified during the investigation, but we believe there may be more. If you have reason to believe that you may have been a victim of Sevic’s scheme, please contact us on 101, or call ActionFraud on 0300 123 2040.
What is a Ponzi scheme?
A Ponzi scheme is a form of fraud which lures in new investors and pays ‘profits’ to earlier investors by using the funds obtained from more recent investors. In this case, Sevic used money to pay back small percentages of investment as a ‘profit payment’, despite there not being a business to generate a profit.
Ponzi fraudsters are able to maintain the illusion of a successful business as long as there continues to be new investors willing to contribute new funds.
This fraud was based on a breach of trust, which can be very difficult to prevent, but there are things you can do to reduce any subsequent impact by detecting fraudulent activity on your accounts quickly and responding quickly:
Spotting and minimising fraud quickly
- Check your statements carefully and report anything suspicious to the bank or financial service provider concerned.
- If something arrives in the post (like an insurance policy or phone bill) that you don’t recognise, check it with your bank and the company concerned immediately.
- Consider using a credit report checking service to alert you to any key changes on your credit file that could indicate potential fraudulent activity:
You can get a copy of your Credit Reference File from the three Credit Reference Agencies for only £2 each.
- It is particularly helpful to check your personal credit file 2-3 months after you have moved house.
- If you suspect unusual activity, act quickly – you mustn’t ignore the problem. Even though you didn’t order those goods or open that bank account, the bad debts will end up under your name and address.
If you believe you’re a victim of identity fraud involving plastic cards (e.g. credit and debit cards), online banking or cheques, you must report it to your bank as soon as possible who will report any case of criminal activity to the police.
If you think you’re a victim of another kind of identity fraud, you must report the matter to the relevant organisation. Depending on their advice, you should then alert your local police force.
For further advice and guidance on staying safe, visit ActionFraud. Likewise if you have been a victim of fraud, please report to police on 101 or ActionFraud on 0300 123 2040.