Jail for fraud trio as victims rebuild lives

VICTIMS of a £10million Ponzi scheme that saw them lose all their money have said they are serving a life sentence as they try to rebuild their lives.

Charles and Melinda Dewey, from Somerset, were at Bradford Crown Court to see John Hirst, Richard Pollett and Linda Hirst jailed for their part in a scam that saw many lose all their money.

Mr Dewey said: “The fact is they will be out in x amount of years but for us it is a life sentence for what we have to live with now.

“I feel I let my family down but the Serious Fraud Office say you must not think like that as we were preyed upon by an expert fraudster - but you still feel it.

“All of the people in Mallorca are extremely pleased that justice has seen to be done and they are in the right place. It is now about picking up the pieces and carrying on with our lives.”

John Hirst, 61, of Millroyd Mill, Brighouse, was sentenced to nine years in prison after pleading guilty to one count of conspiring to defraud and a further two counts of money laundering relating to a so-called Ponzi scheme targeting ex-pats in Mallorca.

Financial advisor Pollett, 70, of Dorset was found guilty to a charge of conspiracy to defraud and jailed for six and a half years. Linda Hirst, 62, of Surrey, was sentenced to two and a half years in jail after being found guilty of four charges.

John Hirst and Pollett persuaded investors to part with their life savings and hard earned cash. People were promised big returns of 20 per cent per annum on their investment but Hirst and Pollett never delivered.

Bradford Crown Court heard how people were charmed by Pollett and John Hirst to invest their life savings. One individual who was diagnosed with cancer gave them all his saved money and lost it all.

Judge Jonathan Durham Hall told Hirst and Pollett: “You are through and through common criminals. What you did, and what makes this case of the utmost gravity, was brutal, callous and cruel. You are corrupt.

“This was an appalling and shocking course of conduct in which so many were targeted and so many have, in effect, had the remainder of their lives shattered and ruined.”

In total investors put around £10 million into Hirst’s firm Gilher Inc but less than £5 million was ever paid out to give the impression the scheme was working.

The rest was splashed on Hirst’s champagne lifestyle which included spending £90,000 on his Las Vegas wedding and at least £270,000 spent renovating Hirst’s villa in Mallorca.

Just under £160,000 was spent on hotels, holidays and flights with more than £25,000 spent on jewellery.

The couple went on a series of cruises and trips costing £75,000 and the couple stayed at the exclusive Burj Al Arab Hotel, in Dubai, on the way to the Seychelles for their honeymoon.

Judge Durham Hall said to John Hirst: “You wanted it all - to get rich quick. You had the greed and the desire for the high life, which overcame all morality.”

John Hirst, 61, served a two-and-a-half-year prison sentence in the early 1990s after being convicted of a similar investment fraud involving miners’ redundancy payments.

After his release from jail, he later moved to Mallorca and set up the Ponzi scheme in 2001 before it began to fall apart in 2009 when the demands for the withdrawal of money exceeded the amount being invested.

Judge Durham-Hall said John Hirst also imperilled members of his own family by trying to involve them in the scheme.

His solicitor son, Daniel Hirst, and Linda Hirst’s daughter, Zoe Waite, were cleared of money laundering charges at the trial earlier this year.