Oxfordshire couple who lost £300k 'nest egg' to scammer now face a bigger bill

Marilyn Hamblin lost retirement savings Credit: ITV News Meridian

A couple from Oxfordshire, who lost their life savings in an investment scam, say they were confident they had made all the necessary checks.

Marilyn Hamblin and her husband Gareth have been trying to get to the bottom of what happened to their money.

Six years ago they were looking for somewhere to put their savings to try to increase their pension pot.

They did some online research and found a company offering investments in commodities and currencies.

Marilyn said they were careful and Gareth travelled to London to meet with a company representative before they parted with any money.

But after investing around £300,000 it became clear the company was fraudulent.

The company stopped answering calls, the website disappeared and the couple's money had gone.

The Hamblins lost their £300,000 nest egg to a scammer.

After a police investigation Jonathan Arafiena pleaded guilty to one count of money laundering and conspiracy to defraud at Southwark Crown Court.

He is now serving a five year sentence.

City of London Police said Arafiena ran a ‘boiler room’ - a term given to fraud carried on by means of distance selling and telesales.

Victims are pressurised into buying products or investments on a false premise, which historically used to take place in basements or boiler rooms.

Jonathan Arafiena was jailed for five years

The Hamblins were not the only victims, with police estimating that over £12m was taken from hundreds of people over a two-and-a-half-year period.

Detective Inspector Gareth Dothie, from the Fraud Operations team at the City of London Police, said: “Arafiena led an extravagant lifestyle where he purchased high-end cars, luxury watches and gold bullion from the proceeds of criminal activity. "Unfortunately for him, we seized all of these and he is now facing a lengthy sentence behind bars."

Arafiena used money to buy cars, bullion and watches

Gareth and Marilyn praised the police for bringing Arafiena to justice but decided to try and recoup some of their money.

Part of the money they had lost, £160,000, had been paid into an account held by payment service provider Moorwand, but had been withdrawn by the scammers.

The couple took Moorwand to court alleging they did not have an adequate system of checks in place when the company was set up and so were liable for the losses.

However a judge ruled there was no breach of duty of care and the case was dismissed.

It means the Hamblins have not only lost their pension savings but now face further legal costs for losing the civil action too.

In a statement Moorwand said: "The judgement speaks for itself and Moorwand is truly sorry for the predicament that befell the Hamblins."

Fraud prevention groups say scammers often target vulnerable people and can be extremely convincing.

Pat Coomber-Wood, CEO Citizens Advice North Oxfordshire, gave this advice to anyone looking for investment opportunities.

She said: "Don't be rushed, do your homework and remember if it sounds too good to be true it probably is, so act much more cautiously, and the other key things are, be really careful about giving away bank details.

"Do all of your due diligence and make sure you are not giving away bank details to an organisation you haven't checked up on."

City of London Police offered the following advice to protect against investment fraud:

  • Take your time considering investment opportunities: don’t be rushed into making an investment. Remember, legitimate organisations will never pressure you into investing on the spot.

  • Seek advice first: before making significant financial decisions, speak with trusted friends or family members, or seek professional independent advice.

  • Check if the company is regulated by the FCA. If you deal with a firm (or individual) that isn’t regulated you may not be covered by the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) if things go wrong and you lose your money.

  • Contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve fallen for a scam and report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or at actionfraud.police.uk.

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