A gem dealer who conned pensioners into parting with their life savings to buy coloured diamonds as an ‘investment’ at hugely inflated prices has been jailed for four years.
John Bishop, 32, was part of a team of five fraudsters who cold called thousands of victims to persuade them to buy brightly coloured stones via their company No.1 Gems.
The victims, mostly retirees registered with investment companies, were sent glossy brochures and promised massive returns if they invested in the gems. But the stones had in fact been bought in bulk from a diamond catalogue and given a huge mark up in the No.1 Gems brochure.
The year-long scheme was masterminded by Bishop’s friend Adam Simmons, 28, who set up an office in Hove. Bishop was put in charge of the Marbella office and was tasked with pulling in Brits that had retired in Spain.
No.1 Gems was set up in late 2011 and conned a total of £1 million from investors until it was raided by police in September 2012.
Simmons was jailed in September last year, along with his father Michael, of Lion Hill, Stone Cross, brother-in-law Adam Leach, of Hambleton Close, Eastbourne, and colleague Lee Miller from Bexhill.
Bishop, of Felixstowe, was not arrested until October 2012 after returning to the UK from Spain. He denied he knew anything about the scam, but was convicted of conspiracy to defraud and transferring criminal property after a trial at the Old Bailey.
The court heard No.1 Gems were engaged in what is known as a boiler room fraud, a specific type of fraud which targets people with cold calling who are pressured into buying items such as shares, equities or financial instruments – or in this case, diamonds.
They are marked up the price by eight, 10 or even up to nearly 30 times in order to determine the price they would be sold for.
Richard Furlong, defending Bishop, said, “He was drawn in by Simmons. He was in living in Spain, he needed a job.”
He claimed Bishop was only responsible for a total loss of £70,000 to investors because he was involved for a shorter period of time.