Four crooked gems dealers who made £1 million duping investors into buying diamonds at hugely inflated prices are facing years behind bars.
The boiler room fraudsters used a ‘sucker list’ to source unwitting victims, cold-calling scores of victims and promising them sky-high returns.
One retired customer 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 out of a mainstream diamond catalogue before the gang added mark-ups of up to 2,800 per cent.
Michael Simmons, 53, of Lion Hill, Stone Cross, Pevensey, his son Adam Simmons, 27, from Liverpool and Adam Simmons’ brother-in-law Adam Leach, 29, from Hambleton Close, Eastbourne, all denied fraud but were convicted following a trial at the Old Bailey.
Adam Simmons had tried to claim workers at his No1 Gems firm, based in Hove, East Sussex, had perpetrated the scam without his knowledge.
The mastermind, who used his share of the profits to pay for a luxury lifestyle in Marbella, grinned and shook his head as the verdicts were announced.
Loud sobbing could be heard from friends and relatives in the public gallery.
Co-conspirator Lee Miller, 32, of Sackville Road, Bexhill, pleaded guilty to fraudulent trading shortly before the case got under way.
The judge, Mr Recorder Michael Wood QC, said he would sentence all four on September 27.
He told them: ‘I can only impose a custodial sentence and it will be a significant one.’
The fraudsters also face having to pay back the cash they made and being disqualified from holding company directorships.
Adam Simmons set up No1 Gems 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, based in nearby 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.
‘The purchasers were sold the items for prices vastly above what the items were worth.
‘In this case they purchased small coloured diamonds at a markup as high as 900 per cent or more.’
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 £15m deal to sell jewels to HSBC to get customers to part with their cash.
But Mr Durose said: ‘Those representations were blatant lies.
One American victim, who met Simmons while holidaying on the Costa del Sol, was defrauded out of £220,000.
Another victim was offered a collection of 500 diamonds for £200,000 and told he should remortgage his house to finance the deal.
Eight unwitting customers gave evidence during the two-week trial but detectives fear many more could have been conned who are too embarrassed to come forward.
Adam Simmons, Michael Simmons, and Leach all denied conspiracy to defraud, money laundering and two counts of fraudulent trading.
Miller admitted a single count of fraudulent trading.