A judge has jailed two financial advisers who duped elderly investors with a “systematic and cynical” enterprise – and praised a Birmingham Mail investigation which halted the scam.
Gary Hexley, 51, and co-defendant John Cooper, 56, had been found guilty of six charges and two charges respectively under the Financial Services and Markets Act.
But investors who suffered at the hands of the pair said they thought the sentences were too lenient.
Passing sentence, Judge Michael Chambers QC said ‘adverse publicity’ in the newspapers had brought the scam to an end.
“Your activities came to an end purely because of the adverse publicity.
"Had it not been for the adverse publicity I am quite satisfied you were each prepared to play your part in enabling this high-risk activity to continue,” he said.
Birmingham Crown Court heard that Hexley, of Barton-under-Needwood, near Lichfield, had netted more than £74,000, while Cooper, of Sutton Coldfield, had gained more than £6,000 in commission when they were not authorised to give financial advice.
Previously the collapse of Hexley’s Sutton Coldfield-based firm Greenfield International in 2010 had left 237 creditors, including many elderly West Midland investors, with total debts of £2,077,426.
Several investors in the Sutton Coldfield and Tamworth area later recouped their losses following months of seeking compensation, after initially being rejected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.
Judge Chambers told Hexley and Cooper: “You each abused trust placed in you by clients for your own selfish ends.
"You did so in a cynical and systematic manner. This is by no means a victimless crime because elderly people were put at risk.
“There has been in this case a real erosion of public confidence in Independent Financial Advisers and that is a very serious matter.”
Tracey McDermott, the Financial Conduct Authority’s director of enforcement and financial crime, said: “This pair of crooks thought they were above the law, but this shows how wrong they were.
"Hexley and Cooper have shown utter disdain for a sector in which tens of thousands of authorised advisers work hard for the good of their customers.”
Meanwhile, investors stripped of their life savings by Hexley and Cooper hit out at the ‘inappropriate’ sentences handed out to the two crooks.
Bill Shackleford, of Hopwas, near Tamworth, who finally won £30,000 compensation after a two-year battle with the FSCS, said: “I think that the judge’s summing up was quite good but the sentence given to Hexley was utterly inappropriate.
"The judge got that wrong, considering the damage this man has done.
“As far as I am concerned, he should have got at least five years. Two years is not much of a deterrent to anybody else to get up to this sort of thing.
“What is to stop him doing this again? Without the Birmingham Mail, this would never have come to light.”
Fellow investor Gerry Lamming, 78, of Walmley, fought for over five years for compensation after facing the loss of a five-figure sum.
He said: “We are disappointed with the short term of the sentence. The judge’s description of Hexley’s activities has not been matched by his sentencing.”
Mr Shackleford and the Lammings are among a string of West Midland investors stripped of their savings following the collapse of Sutton Coldfield-based Greenfield International.
Others include Bryan Parkes, 81, from Sutton Coldfield, who won more than £12,500 compensation in January this year after being rejected four times and Ron Jefferson, also of Sutton Coldfield, who recouped his investment after losing a sum of £13,266.