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US: Fraudulent 'Ponzi' businessman offers to pay victims back to escape jail
Publicado el Jan 27, 2011

Standard.co.uk.- A businessman who helped crooks swindle investors out of £10million will make a last ditch attempt to escape prison by reimbursing his victims, a court heard today.

John Napoli, 51, was a key player in the ruthless "Ponzi" fraud which swindled more than 100 innocent members of the public out of their savings.

Victims were promised returns of up to 48 per cent on their money by the gang, who used a fake office in Knightsbridge to create an air of legitimacy.

The entire operation was a sham, and many investors suffered crippling losses, in some cases losing their homes and savings.

Following a trial last year, the mastermind of the scheme, Vibhawa Fonseka, 41, was sentenced to eight years in prison after he was convicted of a series of fraud charges.

Fonseka, who comes from a respected Sri Lankan family, had initially targeted members of his own community as dupes for the fraudulent investment scheme.

He later extended his net to include friends of friends, telling them that his investors included well-known celebrities.

Fonseka used funded a life of luxury with the proceeds of fraud.

He splashed out on a £1.6 million mansion, designer clothes and jewellery and expensive holidays overseas, and hired sportscars to add to his air of wealth.

Former solicitor John James, 56, was jailed for five years after he was convicted of involvement in the scam.

American national Napoli was due to be sentenced at Southwark Crown Court after he was convicted of carrying on a regulated activity while unauthorised under the Financial Services and Market Act.

But Judge Anthony Pitts adjourned sentence after hearing Napoli will try to secure £3m in funding by that date to reimburse victims.

Giving evidence today, Joel Simon, a corporate transactions lawyer at US law firm Paul Hastings, said an investor had agreed to provide the money to Beyond Access, a firm in which Napoli owns shares.

The funds would then be loaned to Napoli against his shareholding, which would be forfeit if he did not pay it back.

Judge Pitts said: "I have to say, given the history of this matter, I have no faith that this money will ever be deposited."

But he bailed Napoli pending sentence next month.

Outside court Det Chief Insp Robin Cross said: "This was a clear, deliberate, premeditated deception, and people have invested an awful lot of money.

"Fonseka and James received very serious sentences in my view. People like these sharks are more than willing to assist you with losing your money.

"We are talking about people who have lost their homes and have had to remortgage their homes and will be paying for the next 30 or 40 years. These are ordinary people with ordinary jobs."

Fonseka, of Hounslow, was convicted of 31 charges and James, of Nottingham, was found guilty on seven counts.

Napoli, of Sevenoaks, Kent, was convicted of carrying on a regulated activity.

The jury was unable to reach a verdict on second count of money laundering, and the prosecution decided to offer no evidence on the charge rather than seek a retrial.

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