Former Victoria Beckham brother-in-law jailed over £1m fraud

Victoria Beckham's ex-brother-in-law has been jailed for his role in a near-£1 million fraud that saw the famous family's name used to con vulnerable victims to hand over their savings.

Darren Flood was a director in a firm that cold-called unsuspecting members of the public, mainly the elderly, and persuaded them to invest thousands of pounds in materials known as rare earth elements, falsely promising big returns.

The 40-year-old, who was previously married to the former Spice Girls star's sister Louise Adams and is the father of her eight-year-old daughter, was handed a 30-month jail sentence at Kingston Crown Court.

The Beckham name was mentioned to some potential investors to give the scheme an air of legitimacy, although Flood's barrister argued he had not personally sought to capitalise on the family link.

Deputy circuit judge Michael Carroll, addressing Flood and five others who were sentenced at Kingston Crown Court on Friday, said the investment scheme he was involved in was "fraudulent from the outset".

He told the group: "This must have been known to you once you became intimately involved in the running of the company or played a part in it."

Flood, of Ware Road in Hertford, owned almost a quarter of The Commodities Link (TCL), but quit after almost 10 months with the company.

The Beckhams. Credit: PA

He was part of the business alongside his half brother Jonathan Docker and their cousin Gennaro Fiorentino.

Flood, wearing a dark suit with a blue shirt and tie, gave no visible reaction as he was sentenced alongside the others for conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation.

Victims of the scam, known as a "boiler room" fraud, included a widower, a retired policeman and a multiple sclerosis sufferer who complained that a telephone sales agent became abusive when he refused to pay more money.

Some of them, including a widow in her 80s, were even taken out to lunch in fancy London restaurants as the scammers tried to give the impression the business was legitimate and successful.

The investors were persuaded to put their money in a market that effectively did not exist for members of the public, and lied to about the value of the materials they were investing in.

The elements, rare earth metals and oxides which are used in products such as mobile phones and computers, were practically worthless in the small quantities they were being offered in, but were sold to TCL investors for up to 200 times more than the original purchase price.

Victoria Beckham's sister Louise Adams was previously married to Darren Flood. Credit: PA

Fiorentino, 38, of Wetherell Road in Hackney, played "the leading role" in the company, Judge Carroll said, jailing him for five years.

Qualified accountant Mark Whitehead, from Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, had acted as the company's finance director.

The 60-year-old, who the court heard was previously cautioned for fraud, was handed a three-and-a-half-year sentence.

TCL's office manager Vikki King, 39, from Basildon, broke down in tears as she was jailed for 27 months.

The court heard the mother-of-four had previously been given a suspended sentence for benefit fraud.

All four defendants had denied conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation but were convicted by a jury in November last year.

Stephen Todd, who was brought in by Fiorentino to help run the company, and TCL's main salesman, Paul Muldoon, had pleaded guilty to the same charge, which is dated between April 2012 and August 2014.

Muldoon, who regularly used pseudonyms during the course of the fraud, had "made great play of Darren Flood being David Beckham's brother-in-law", during a pitch to a victim who lost more than £62,000.

The 34-year-old, of Basildon in Essex, who was jailed in 2010 for fraud offences, fled the UK after being questioned about TCL's activities, and was extradited from Spain last year.

Judge Carroll, handing him a four-year sentence, said he had been an "unscrupulous salesman preying on people who wanted to make investments for their future".

Todd, 37, of Blackwall Way in Tower Hamlets, who is currently serving time in prison for a similarly-styled "land banking" fraud, was sentenced to one year behind bars, to run consecutively with his current term.

Docker, 32, of High Road, Chigwell, Essex, is to be sentenced later on Friday.

Detective Inspector Matt Durkin from Surrey Police, who led the investigation, said: "This is a criminal gang who, dressed in suits, used big, long complicated words and flashy brochures but, fundamentally, they are just criminals."

There is no suggestion the Beckhams knew anything about the TCL fraud or about any use of the Beckham name.