" His sophisticated and dishonest masquerade has caused substantial losses to innocent investors."
A self-described 'proprietary futures trader' who defrauded investors of around £3 million through unauthorised investment schemes has been sentenced to five years' imprisonment.
Between 2008 and 2017, Mark Starling purported to run three investment funds but traded just £8,000 of the £3 million invested with him, on which he made a loss of £2,450.
Starling would sometimes pay money back to his investors to sustain the illusion of running a successful investment business, however the payments were simply funded from other victims’ investments.
In order to cover up his deception and prolong the fraud, Starling resorted to forging documents and correspondence purporting to be from brokerages. He also registered web domain names and created email addresses in names similar to a legitimate brokerage, and for an entirely fictitious brokerage.
In total, 24 investors are known to have put money into the funds, of whom 17 lost a total of around £1.8 million. At the hearing, the FCA commenced confiscation proceedings against Starling, and it is expected that the victims will get some limited compensation from funds restrained by the regulator in April 2017.
In sentencing, HHJ Bartle QC said that Starling had defrauded investors in an 'appalling way'. The Judge said that 'not one word of what [Mr Starling told investors] was true' and that he had consistently told his victims 'a pack of lies'.
Mark Steward, executive director of enforcement and market oversight at the FCA, said: "Mr Starling was never authorised to carry on business as an investment manager or as a futures trader. His sophisticated and dishonest masquerade has caused substantial losses to innocent investors.
"The FCA is committed to ensuring that criminals who operate unauthorised investment schemes are brought to justice and our quick action here has prevented the losses from becoming much worse."