Eastleigh man convicted in £36 million swindle

The 'malicious and greedy' directors of a Winchester based firm conned elderly folk out of their live savings while living the high life.

In 2012 Luke Ryan was secretly filmed by the BBC making false claims about carbon credits.

An Eastleigh man has been convicted for his part in conning elderly victims out of their life-savings in a £36 million fraud while he and his accomplice lived lavish styles; buying sports cars including a Bentley Continental GT and luxury designer clothes.

In 2012 Luke Ryan, 33, of Scott Road, Eastleigh was secretly filmed by BBC South bragging that there was ‘serious money’ to be made in Carbon Credits but on Wednesday (12 May) a jury at a specialist court in London found him and his partner-in-crime Paul Seakens, 60 of Whitewebbs Road, Enfield, both guilty of fraudulent trading.

Ryan and Seakens were directors of a company called Enviro Associates which was based on Southgate Street in Winchester. The pair operated a ‘boiler room scam’ making cold calls to vulnerable people and then using false claims and high pressure sales patter to con their victims into buying worthless ‘carbon credits’.

Carbon Credits are certificates that permit businesses to generate carbon dioxide (CO2) – these can be bought and sold but Ryan and Seakens used false claims to mislead clients into buying these certificates at many times their true value. While the pair lived the high life on the profit, the duped victims were left unable to sell these certificates on. Furthermore, carbon credit trading is not regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority meaning the victims are unable to claim compensation and have lost everything.

The pair were finally brought to justice following an eight-year investigation by Hampshire Constabulary and the City of London police.

The losses attributed to the victims identified in the case amounted to £1,847,630 but this is believed to be an underestimate. Bank statements showed that well in excess of £30 million went through various company accounts controlled by Seakens, who was also convicted on three counts of money laundering. The Crown Proscution Service  (CPS) estimates victims were defrauded of £36 million, though the true total might never be known.

Jane Mitchell of the CPS said:

“This was a particularly hideous scam operation, where vulnerable victims lost their life savings on so-called investments that had greatly inflated return claims and no resale market.

“In each of these frauds elderly and generally inexperienced investors were targeted. They were cold called in their homes and pressured into buying these so-called investments by criminals who made them look genuine and trustworthy. They were conned: the products being sold (Voluntary Carbon Credits or VERs) were, in essence, worthless. I would like thank the work of the City of London Police and Hampshire Police on their excellent investigation which enabled us to prove that Seakens and Ryan were exploiting vulnerable victims out of much needed savings for their own selfish purposes”

Detective Inspector Paul Curtis, from the City of London Police said:

“We are pleased the jury were able to convict these greedy and malicious individuals beyond all reasonable doubt for their crimes.”

The two men are due to be sentenced on May 28.