Echo nabs £1m fraudster

Southend Standard: Matthew Ames Matthew Ames

A CONMAN exposed by the Echo for selling green investment schemes which did not exist could face jail after being found guilty of fraud.

Matthew Ames, 38, used famous names, including James Middleton, the brother of the Duchess of Cambridge, Jack Charlton and Sir Rodney Walker, to promote bogus “ethical investments” and persuade people to part with £1.2million.

Ames, of Goldfinch Lane, Thundersley, was yesterday found guilty of conning investors into parting with about £430,000 to buy bogus carbon credits, which can be traded like shares on green stock exchanges, to investors from Forestry for Life, based at a converted barn in Dunton Road, Laindon.

Southend Standard:

Court appearance: Ames arriving at the Old Bailey for earlier hearing

A day earlier, he had been found guilty of scamming investors out of £846,000 in a bogus Sri Lankan teak tree plantation scheme, run from the same address.

Ames had denied two counts of fraudulent trading, but jurors at Isleworth Crown Court did not agree after sitting through a near six-week long trial.

Speaking after the guilty verdict, Det Con Simon Cordell, who led the investigation, said Ames operated a Ponzi fraud in which investors’ money was used to pay off other investors.

Southend Standard:

Royal connection: James Middleton (left) and former Environment Secretery Chris Huhne lock hands as Ames looks on

 

He said: “Ames created a Ponzi fraud to play on people’s conscience as well as their want to make their savings work for them, using trees and carbon credits to create a supposedly ethical investment scheme.

“Unfortunately it was all apack of lies so he could live the high life at others’ expense, with no remorse shown for the damage caused to his victims’ futures.”

Southend Standard:

Sports veteran: Sir Rodney Walker at Forestry for Life launch when he was its "chairman"

Ames’ slick brochures detailed how a minimum investment of £10,000 could provide returns of up to 15 per cent over 20 years.

To create the impression of success, funds taken from later investors were used to pay about £100,000 to his early victims, but by late 2010, payments stopped and investors found it increasingly difficult to contact Ames.

Southend Standard:

Life in the fast lane: Ames rented this Lamborghini parked outside his Thundersley home with investors' cash

The Echo went undercover to expose Ames’ firms. They were shut by the Financial Services Authority in March 2011, owing £1.6million.

Detectives found no evidence any land or trees had ever been purchased overseas or capital invested in the carbon credit markets. Instead, Ames used people’s money to cover company expenses and take luxurious trips overseas.

Anthony Swift, a specialist fraud lawyer from the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “Out of the £1.6m that was invested across both companies, only £250,000 was ever returned to investors.

“The rest went directly into the pocket of Matthew Ames, funding his profligate spending habits.”

DetETECTIVES said Ames used people with “impressive CVs” to promote Forestry for Life and give it a sense of legitimacy.

Southend Standard: Rainforest fraud trial: Investors' cash spent on luxury holidays, hotels and restaurants

Launch: Jack Charlton hosted the Irish launch of Forestry for Life in 2010

Football legend Jack Charlton was hired to launch the scheme in Ireland in 2010 and later that year, in October, James Middleton, brother of the Duchess of Cambridge, was photographed with Ames representing Forestry for Life at a carbon conference at London’s Excel Centre.

Neither Mr Charlton nor Mr Middleton were implicated in any wrongdoing and were not involved in the investigation or trial.

Southend Standard:

Well connected: James Middleton talks visitor through Forestry brochure

Neither responded to the Echo when asked how they met Ames.

Sir Rodney Walker, former chairman of World Snooker and current head of the committee organising the UK leg of this year’s Tour de France, was described as chairman of Forestry for Life in its brochure.

He was never registered as a director, but later became a creditor for the firm during the liquidation and acted as a witness for the prosecution in the trial.

The court heard he became concerned in late 2010, after our report, and asked to see company accounts.

A City of London Police spokesman said: “Ames recruited professionals with impressive CVs, including former civil servants and businessmen.

“However, they were kept at arm’s length from the company finances and those who started to question the operating model were swiftly fired.”

Comments (7)

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6:29am Fri 14 Feb 14

wickford-warrior says...

Seems the whole family are at it !!!
Seems the whole family are at it !!! wickford-warrior
  • Score: 8

11:02am Fri 14 Feb 14

Stamper2 says...

Looks like there is a nice house and Lambourghini for the police to now confiscate. Perhaps the old taxpayer will not be so badly off after these are sold?
Looks like there is a nice house and Lambourghini for the police to now confiscate. Perhaps the old taxpayer will not be so badly off after these are sold? Stamper2
  • Score: 8

11:38am Fri 14 Feb 14

Feminism is Dead says...

Stamper2 wrote:
Looks like there is a nice house and Lambourghini for the police to now confiscate. Perhaps the old taxpayer will not be so badly off after these are sold?
If you'd read the article properly you would have read that the Lambo was rented. Also, I doubt he owned his home outright so therefore it would go back to the bank.
[quote][p][bold]Stamper2[/bold] wrote: Looks like there is a nice house and Lambourghini for the police to now confiscate. Perhaps the old taxpayer will not be so badly off after these are sold?[/p][/quote]If you'd read the article properly you would have read that the Lambo was rented. Also, I doubt he owned his home outright so therefore it would go back to the bank. Feminism is Dead
  • Score: 5

12:49pm Fri 14 Feb 14

DogsMessInLeigh says...

I bet he don't buy the Echo anymore either.
I bet he don't buy the Echo anymore either. DogsMessInLeigh
  • Score: 7

12:20pm Sat 15 Feb 14

GTA Essex says...

This guy is a legend. Much respect to him.
This guy is a legend. Much respect to him. GTA Essex
  • Score: -4

5:19pm Sat 15 Feb 14

Lilacs says...

GTA Essex wrote:
This guy is a legend. Much respect to him.
You respect man thy has stolen thousands of pounds from hard working families? The elderly? He's ruined peoples lives and you respect him? How would you feel of this happens to you or you parent or even your grandparents? If you really think he's a legend then you have some serious moral issues. You must be a desperate disappointment to your family!
[quote][p][bold]GTA Essex[/bold] wrote: This guy is a legend. Much respect to him.[/p][/quote]You respect man thy has stolen thousands of pounds from hard working families? The elderly? He's ruined peoples lives and you respect him? How would you feel of this happens to you or you parent or even your grandparents? If you really think he's a legend then you have some serious moral issues. You must be a desperate disappointment to your family! Lilacs
  • Score: 5

8:39am Tue 18 Feb 14

aarontrophy says...

so how long is he actuall going down for...
so how long is he actuall going down for... aarontrophy
  • Score: 2

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