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Two fraudsters jailed for defrauding £36 million from vulnerable victims

|News, Fraud and economic crime

Two fraudsters have been imprisoned today (28 May 2021) for conning vulnerable victims out of £36 million in a ‘boiler room’ fraud operation.

Paul Seakens, 60, and Luke Ryan, 33, were sentenced to 13 years and six years imprisonment respectively at the new specialist court Prospero House Southwark for running a business for fraudulent purposes.

Seakens and Ryan were directors of a company based in Winchester, Enviro Associates, that sold Voluntary Emission Reduction (VERs) carbon credits to mostly vulnerable individuals using call operatives, making false claims about returns.

The VERs sold to clients were essentially worthless, purchased via Seakens’ London based company CNI for very small sums and then sold by the boiler rooms – call centres for con artists - to victims at vastly inflated prices (between 200% - 1,000% mark-up).

The money from the victims was paid directly to the bank accounts of three London based clearing companies, CNI, Tocan and Opus, all controlled by Seakens, that deducted a commission and then paid the monies back to the boiler rooms.

CPS specialist fraud prosecutors said this clearing mechanism was simply a money laundering device. The clearing companies were created, in part, in order to give these VER transactions an air of legitimacy so that customers would think that their payments were being made to a safe Financial Conduct Authority regulated third party and in part because the VER brokers would not have been able to operate without such a mechanism.

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.”

The CPS is committed to working alongside the government and law enforcement to provide a multi-agency response to combat investment fraud. Our specialist fraud prosecutors are looking to seek justice in a variety of cases including those that cause the greatest harm to the public and the economy and sets to deter this criminal activity. 

Notes to editors

  • Jane Mitchell is specialist prosecutor for the CPS Specialist Fraud Division
  • The Specialist Fraud Division is a dedicated CPS team playing a leading role in the fight against serious and complex economic crime and the financial exploitation of the public, using specialist legal expertise to deliver justice
  • The CPS Economic Crime Strategy 2025 is available on our website
  • Paul Seakens (DOB: 12/03/1961) was convicted of three counts of money laundering. He was imprisoned for 13 years and director disqualification for 12 years
  • Luke Ryan (DOB: 24/12/1987) was convicted of one count of fraudulent trading. Seakens was also convicted of this count. He was imprisoned for eight years and director disqualification for six years

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