A financial adviser convicted of duping investors out of £5 million by promising impossible returns on property deals in Cyprus has been jailed for eight and a half years.
Sasha Morris, 46, an Australian international seniors tennis player, conned victims out of life-savings and redundancy payments by convincing them to ‘mortgage to the hilt’ and put money into a scheme which was to have ‘catastrophic’ consequences for investors.
In a separate fraud Morris, who gave the court an Eastbourne address, sourced more than £2.2 million from two groups of investors to a company she claimed would finance property developments.
Morris was found guilty by a jury at Leeds Crown Court of one charge of fraudulent trading and two of fraud involving the information she gave to her investors.
The judge who sentenced the mother-of-two described her offending as ‘narcissistic and reprehensible’ and said she had shown no remorse for her victims.
Judge Rodney Jameson, QC, said: “You regarded the complainants with indifference at best and, at least on one occasion, with contempt.”
The court heard some of the victims, many from Leeds and north Yorkshire, had suffered mental and physical breakdowns due to the stress of losing vast sums of money. For others it had led to the breakdown of relationships and even divorce.
Some victims had lost hundreds of thousands of pounds as a result of trusting Morris, including one woman who had lost over £250,000. There were two separate cases against Morris.
The first involved around 40 individual investors who went to Morris for financial advice between 2004 to 2007 through her business Morris and Hale Ltd, then operating in Harrogate.
They were encouraged through her acting as a property broker to invest in off-plan properties in Cyprus by either buying to let or as she termed ‘flipping’ the properties by selling them on before completion when they had to be fully paid for.
Morris used the commission she received from the offences to buy a new home in Killinghall, near Harrogate, where she had lived with her corporate airline pilot husband and children.
The court heard some of the people duped by Morris had been impressed by the standard of living she had obtained for her family.
Nadim Bashir, prosecuting, said she wrongly gave investors the impression well-known holiday companies would buy or rent the properties and investors either lost their deposit or found themselves having to pay for the full property when they had not expected to do so.
Individual investors had lost over £3 million.
Judge Jameson said, “You were not simply an independent financial adviser but an agent - in plain terms - a sales woman for the properties you were advising them to buy.
“It follows that I am satisfied that your advice was reprehensible from the outset as you never explained the dual role you were playing.”
In a separate fraud Morris sourced more than £2.2 million from two groups of investors to a company she claimed would finance property developments.
Each group was unaware that the other was involved and would be entitled to half of the value. When the schemes either failed or did not make the money expected, they too lost out.
Morris denied any misrepresentation or withholding facts from the investors but her account was rejected following the investigation by North Yorkshire Police’s major fraud team.
Adam Morgan, mitigating, said Morris excelled at tennis and previously represented her country in her senior age group level.
Mr Morgan said Morris would no longer be able to represent her country as a result of the convictions as she would no longer be considered a ‘fit and proper person’.