Gang’s scam blows up in fiends’ faces


A gang of crooks behind a boiler room operation that ripped off 193 victims for £7.5million have been jailed for a total of 35-and-a-half years.

The quartet – comprising James Byrne, Sam Exhall, Max Jefferys and Michael Foran – were sentenced separately in hearings throughout August, October and November; details of the case have only just been released after reporting restrictions were lifted at Southwark Crown Court.

Byrne set up the boiler room in 2008. Initially named ‘Paramount Land’ the name changed several times during its three-year existence. The defendants subsequently set up numerous umbrella companies in order to move money around. Fellow directors Exall and Foran assisted with the running of the operation while Jefferys was a prolific salesman, making calls to victims.

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Guilty: Byrne, Exhall, Jeffreys and Foran

The boiler room typically targeted vulnerable and elderly victims by cold-calling them and used a variety of lies, aggression and pressure to convince them to make investments in land at a grossly inflated cost.

Paramount Land bought agricultural land for low prices and then sold it for far more than it could ever be worth, and did this by making false guarantees as to the future value. They also sold land that they did not own. They then convinced investors that the only way they could get their money back was to invest more money so that their portfolio could be bought out by a nameless conglomerate that never existed.

In November 2010, City of London Police became aware of a suspected con operation taking place in rented office accommodation in Dowgate Hill. Officers from the City’s fraud teams started to investigate and Byrne was arrested on 2 February 2011. However, the boiler room continued to function from a secret location. This was identified in March of the same year whereupon the operation was shut down and further arrests made.

Computer evidence and documents were seized from the rented offices and the defendants’ addresses. Telephone recordings showed that Byrne and Exall made several phone calls during which they spoke about criminal activity, while Jefferys was found to have spoken using a pseudonym. Detective Sergeant Marcus McInerney, officer in charge of the case, said he was glad that justice could be served on this occasion: “These defendants caused intense misery for their victims.

They used the money to enjoy lavish and extravagant lifestyles leaving their victims destitute. “Through the asset recovery procedure, we will work to recover as much of their ill-gotten gains as possible to ensure they do not benefit from their offending, and in order to compensate victims.” The investigation into accomplices in the scam continues.