- Stephen Rae convinced clients to invest between June 2014 and January 2016
A crooked financial adviser has been jailed for seven years after conning 16 people out of £2.1million to fund a lavish lifestyle of luxury cars and private jets.
Stephen Rae, 63, convinced clients to invest their money with him between June 2014 and January 2016 through his Newcastle-based company Mason Morton Ltd, before using the cash to splash out on a VIP lifestyle.
Rae spent the hard-earned cash, much of which came from pensions and life savings, to buy luxury cars, a house extension and watch football games from executive boxes.
He also gave the money to loved ones, totalling £100,000 and bought a £5,000 Gucci handbag from Harrods.
A picture shows him proudly posing behind the wheel of a £200,000 Aston Martin.
Meanwhile, his 16 victims, who had trusted him with over £2.3million in the belief he was a sound financial adviser who would make their cash grow, were left crushed when they realised their money had gone.
Some lost their entire pensions, with one woman who retired after 35-years in employment not only losing her home but being forced to return to work.
Meanwhile, a father was left unable to fufill his promise to pay for his daughter to attend university, meaning her chance at higher education was lost.
Rae, of Forth Court, South Shields, South Tyneside, admitted 16 offences of fraud against 16 victims who included emergency workers and a teacher.
Judge Gavin Doig sentenced the 63-year-old, who had no criminal record, to seven years behind bars and banned him from being a company director for 15 years.
Judge Doig said Rae’s offending was ‘dreadful’, that he told ‘lie after lie’ and he has left victims with an ‘uncertain and perilous future’.
The judge said: ‘While this disaster was unfolding, you brushed off understandable concerns of clients and spent their money on yourself.
‘No sentence I pass can remedy the damage you have done.’
Newcastle Crown Court heard Rae’s company Mason Morton was based in Jarrow, South Tyneside.
He told one employee he had been to China for some government bonds, which prosecutors say he believed could be worth millions and he may genuinely have thought ‘pay day was coming’.
Rae told police when he was arrested: ‘I didn’t intend for anyone to lose their money, I thought I was making them rich.’
The court heard Rae convinced investors to part with money by claiming he had secured a ‘major financial investment’ but could not reveal the specifics of it as he had signed a non-disclosure agreement.
Prosecutor Deborah Smithies said the investors were actually in a ‘Ponzi’ scheme, where early contributors did see some repayments, which actually came from those who put money in later.
When cash flow started to dry up, Rae would say there was trouble releasing money as it was being held overseas.
He eventually resorted to telling investors to ‘f*** off’ and ‘stop badgering’ when they asked when the financial returns were expected.
Miss Smithies told the court: ‘There are 16 complainants and the total money defrauded was in the region of £2.3million.’
She said the amount Rae blew on ‘lifestyle spending’ was just short of £1million.
Miss Smithies added: ‘The defendant by stated occupation is a financial adviser and company director but, by his pleas of guilty, ultimately it appears he was in truth a conman and fraudster.
‘Between 2012 and 2015 the defendant encouraged those who had worked hard and saved money for their retirement and those seeking to make investments more generally to invest funds with him.
‘As a result of his lies, deceit, false promises and, as they turned out worthless assurances, those customers have, while he enjoyed the high life, at best lost the entire value of their investments and at worst been rendered penniless.’
Miss Smithies said when worried investors asked questions about their money, they were told to ‘stop badgering’, ‘f*** off, in terms’ and others were warned if they kept asking they would ‘go to the back of the queue’.
Miss Smithies added: ‘Meanwhile, he was enjoying luxuries, there is reference in the papers to a £200,000 Aston Martin, a luxury trip with friends via private jet to a golf tournament in the US, the jet cost £114,000.
‘His indulgence with money, which the Crown say belonged to others, included a VIP hospitality package of £30,000 for that holiday, a £178,000 house extension, there are trips to watch Sunderland FC from executive boxes at £68,000.’
Miss Smithies said Rae paid off personal loans and bought more cars, including a Jaguar and Mini.
One brave victim faced Rae in court as she tearfully outlined the damage he had done to her life.
She said: ‘I’m not sure how I can find sufficient words to convey the total devastation this crime has had and continues to have.’
The woman branded Rae ‘cruel and callous’ and said: ‘My whole future was thrown into chaos, I couldn’t eat or sleep. I’ve never experienced such total despair.
‘I am ashamed, embarrassed and just devastated.’
The victim said she lost her home and had to return to work part time and added: ‘There is no possibility of any luxuries, extras must be planned for carefully.
‘This is now my life. I will have to continue to work as long as I can.’
And a father who was no longer able to fund his daughter’s place at university said he now has to continue to work six days a week to survive financially, despite his mounting health problems.
He said he could not understand how Rae could be ‘so ruthless and indifferent in taking people’s hard earned money while living such an affluent lifestyle’.
Mark Graffius KC, defending, said Rae believed everyone would be paid when ‘the big deal was finalised’ and added: ‘That was the error, he couldn’t guarantee it.’
Mr Graffius added that Rae had looked into a Lake District property with helicopter landing pad in the belief major money, in the form of billions, was coming for himself and the investors.
The court heard Rae has no previous convictions and has a record of ‘exemplary conduct in charity work’.
Prosecutors have launched proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act to strip Rae, who has already lost his family home, of all of his assets.
Speaking after the sentencing, the officer in charge of the case, Detective Constable Craig Tomlinson, said: ‘Finally we have justice for Rae’s victims. Today marks the end of a long, drawn out process for them and I hope they can now begin to move forwards with their lives.
‘No custodial sentence will be able to take away the devastating impact his greed and his lies have had on the victims.
‘The impact of his actions means a number of hardworking and trustworthy people have lost their full pension and life savings – and the betrayal and breach of trust will no doubt affect many of the victims for years to come.
‘Fraud has a profound impact on victims, made even worse when the perpetrator is supposed to be a trusted member of the community, and they abuse that power.
‘This was a complex case and I would like to praise the victims who came forward and instigated action against Rae. I would also like to thank the team of officers, staff and criminal justice partners for their help in proving crimes like this don’t pay.’
Mr Tomlinson added: ‘As a force, we will not tolerate criminality like this and will do all we can to bring offenders before the courts.
‘If you plan on investing, please do your research and make sure that any adviser or company you plan on using is registered with the Financial Conduct Authority and their contact details match up. If the website, number and address don’t match, don’t invest.
‘You can also check the FCA warning list of firms to avoid and seek impartial advice. We’d also advise people are also cautious when parting with large sums of money. And if you suspect foul play, report to Action Fraud immediately.’