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Criminals who laundered fraudulently-obtained life savings in £12 million shares scam sentenced

|News, International and organised crime , Fraud and economic crime

Three men who laundered funds fraudulently obtained from 350 people who were tricked into investing more than £12 million in non-existent or worthless shares have been sentenced today.

Some victims invested tens of thousands of pounds they had saved for their retirement and will have to continue working for longer than they had planned. The largest amount lost by a single victim was £300,000.

Specialist Prosecutors in the Serious Economic Organised Crime International Directorate (SEOCID) at the Crown Prosecution Service charged Jonathan Arafiena, 35, Kofi Ofori-Duah, 43, and Ashlee Morgan, 35, who all pleaded guilty, to laundering money obtained from the fraud.

Arafiena was a leading figure in the organised crime group and enjoyed a life of luxury, including renting high end flats in the heart of London overlooking the Thames, buying a 2017 Rolls-Royce Wraith worth £250,000, paying a £14,000 annual membership to a lifestyle management service, and buying expensive designer products.

At Southwark Crown Court today, Arafiena was sentenced to five-years-and-nine-months in prison, Ofori-Duah to two-years suspended for 18-months, and Morgan to 14-months suspended for 18-months. There will be further court hearings for all three, as the CPS goes after them to strip them of the proceeds of their offending.

Siân Mitchell, a CPS Specialist Prosecutor, said:

“The money that these criminals laundered came from a highly sophisticated and professional fraud that has devastated the lives of hundreds of hard-working people, who were tricked into investing in bogus companies.

“Victims have had their lives and future plans irreparably damaged, with hopes for retirement or leaving an inheritance for children and grandchildren destroyed.

“The CPS will now legally pursue all three to strip them of the proceeds of their offending.”

The scam which generated the money they laundered is known as a “boiler room” fraud, and involves individuals pressuring and misleading victims into buying shares or making investments in the expectation of huge returns that never materialise.

A number of victims reported their losses to Action Fraud which ultimately led to an investigation by City of London Police.

Detective Inspector Gareth Dothie, from the Fraud Operations team at the City of London Police, said: “Arafiena masterminded one of the biggest investment fraud cases that we have dealt with. We estimate that over £12m was taken from hundreds of victims over a two-and-a-half year period.

“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.

“We would like to remind everyone to stay vigilant to any type of investment and to follow the age-old saying that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Always do thorough background checks and see if the company is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), as well as seeking independent financial advice before parting with any money.” 

Notes to editors

  • Jonathan Arafiena (DoB 18/6/1988), Kofi Ofori-Duah (DoB 14/11/1980), and Ashlee Morgan (DoB 11/6/1988) each pleaded guilty to one count of concealing, converting, transferring, or removing criminal property, contrary to Section 327(1) of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. The offending took place on dates between 1 January 2016 and 24 September 2019.
  • Siân Mitchell is a Specialist Prosecutor in the Serious Economic Organised Crime and International Directorate of the CPS in London.

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