Four crooked gems dealers who made £1 million duping investors into buying diamonds at up to 30 times their real value were jailed for a total of 15 years and ten months today.
The boiler room fraudsters used a ‘sucker list’ to cold-call scores of victims and promise them sky-high returns.
They were planning to set up a similar operation in Eastbourne when another East Sussex premises was raided by police last year.
They conned an 80-year-old retired teacher into paying £71,000 for a single black diamond which they claimed would be put up for auction at Christies.
Another victim, a retired police officer, used up the last of his savings buying gems for £140,000 - but the stones were worth little more than £10,000.
All the gems had been purchased from a diamond catalogue before being given huge mark-ups.
Mastermind Adam Simmons, 27, who used his £200,000 share of the profits to pay for a luxury lifestyle in Marbella, was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment.
His father Michael, 53, from Stone Cross, was jailed for two-and-a-half years while brother-in-law Adam Leach, 29, from Eastbourne was jailed for four years.
All three were convicted of fraud following a trial at the Old Bailey. Co-conspirator Lee Miller, 32, from Bexhill, pleaded guilty to fraudulent trading before trial and was jailed for three years and four months.
The judge, Mr Recorder Michael Wood QC, said: “This was a carefully planned and executed fraud. It ran over a number of months and gained from members of the public in excess of £900,000.
“The scheme involved you buying diamonds up and supplying them to your customers with the promise they would make a substantial return which would be impossible because you were marking up the prices immediately by factors of eight, ten or nearly 30 times.
“The impact on the victims in some cases has been profound. Some of the victims were vulnerable.”
The judge told Adam Simmons: “You are responsible directly for your father’s downfall and effectively destroying your family.”
Adam Simmons set up No1 Gems, based in Hove, in late 2011 and conned investors for the best part of a year.
By the time the company was raided by police in September last year, they had closed down their operation and were preparing to start a similar firm called Pinnacle in Eastbourne.
Prosecutor David Durose said: “Basically, No1 Gems were engaged in what is known as a boiler room fraud.
“It is a specific type of fraud in which individuals are targeted with cold calling and pressured into making purchases of items such as shares, equities or financial instruments - or in this case, diamonds.
“They marked up the price by eight, ten or even up to nearly 30 times in order to determine the price they would be sold for.”
Glossy brochures were sent out boasting employees at No1 Gems had more than 100 years’ experience in the jewel business.
They also lied about the closure of diamond mines and a potential £15 million deal to sell jewels to HSBC to get customers to part with their cash.
Simmons found his first customers in an American family he met on holiday in Cancun, Mexico, and convinced them to hand over more than £220,000.
This money was then used to continue the fraud by buying more gems to sell at hugely inflated prices.
Adam Simmons, of Booth Street, Old Swan, Liverpool; Michael Simmons, of Lion Hill, Stone Cross, Pevensey; and Leach, of Hambleton Close, Eastbourne, all denied conspiracy to defraud, money laundering and two counts of fraudulent trading and were convicted.
Miller, of Sackville Road, Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex, admitted a single count of fraudulent trading.