Two jailed for rare earth metals investment scam
Two men who effectively created a “franchise” for boiler room scams, were jailed on Tuesday at Guildford Crown Court.
James Anthony Oorloff, 31, of Ascot and John Keith Dickinson, 33, of Billingshurst ran Acquire Assets Ltd, then set up Austin Leigh Ltd to carry on the same business promoting themselves as wholesalers in commodities.
Both companies provided a complete service to 11 different boiler room operations - creating “white label” marketing packs to enable pressure selling of rare earth metals, and then buying, importing and storing small quantities of rare earth metals on behalf of the “investors”.
This allowed the two men to profit from boiler room selling, without directly speaking to victims. Rare earth metals are used in advanced electronics such as smart phones, but the quantities bought by the victims were so small that there was no market for them; and were bought at such vastly inflated prices that the victim had no hope of recovering their money.
A typical victim would spend £5500 on a “basket” of five different rare earth metals from the boiler room. Acquire Assets paid the boiler room £3000 commission; spent £1269 (only 23%) 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 Assets with a profit of around £1094.68 (20%), and the investor needing an increase in value of 456% over three years just to break even on the deal.
In total Surrey Police identified 164 investments across eleven different boiler rooms. Many of the victims were repeatedly targeted - once they had bought one investment, the boiler rooms would target them for further investments.
The two men were found guilty at Guildford Crown Court on Monday of two counts of fraudulent trading each. On Tuesday James Oorloff was sentenced to four and a half years imprisonment and John Dickinson was sentenced to seven years imprisonment.
Detective Sergeant Chris Rambour, of the Surrey and Sussex Economic Crime Unit, said:
These two provided everything the boiler rooms needed to run their scams, while keeping the victims at arm’s length. This was carried out over a period of time which allowed them to live a lavish lifestyle at the expense of the victims some who were vulnerable and who lost considerable sums of money. The sentences given reflect the gravity of their offending and are a satisfying conclusion to what was a very complex investigation carried out by Investigation Officer Alex Bray.
Advice on protecting yourself against boiler room and investment fraud can be found on the Financial Conduct Authority website.
John Dickinson hired a private jet, paid for with the proceeds of his crime.