Wednesday 3 August 2022 07:52 PM Conman, 70, faces jail for duping 8,000 victims into investing in luxury ... trends now

Wednesday 3 August 2022 07:52 PM Conman, 70, faces jail for duping 8,000 victims into investing in luxury ... trends now
Wednesday 3 August 2022 07:52 PM Conman, 70, faces jail for duping 8,000 victims into investing in luxury ... trends now

Wednesday 3 August 2022 07:52 PM Conman, 70, faces jail for duping 8,000 victims into investing in luxury ... trends now

A conman is facing jail after he duped 8,000 people into investing in luxury Caribbean holiday resorts that were endorsed by celebrities - but were never built in a scam that made him millions.

Former double glazing salesman David Ames, 70, enriched himself and his family to the tune of £6.2million, paying his wife and son £10,000 a month, while thousands of victims lost their pensions and life savings. 

The Serious Fraud Office said he convinced more than 8,000 people to invest in the Harlequin Group - a hotel and resorts development venture endorsed by celebrities and politicians including the prime ministers of Barbados, St Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines.  

Ames's idea was to build the holiday homes with their deposits - but the cash was spent on agents and slick advertising featuring Wimbledon winner Pat Cash, former Chelsea star Andy Townsend and TV property guru Phil Spencer.

A golf course proposed on the Marquis Estate in St Lucia was endorsed by South African sport legend Gary Player.

Mr Spencer said he had invested in one of the firm's properties in a promotional video and Townsend was at one time the face of Ames's company on his website. 

They had absolutely no idea that Ames was running a massive con from a warehouse in Basildon, Essex and there is no suggestion that any of the stars who endorsed or promoted the business have been involved in any alleged wrongdoing. 

The total value of the planned resorts in St Vincent, St Lucia, Barbados, the Dominican Republic and another in Brazil was £1.4 billion.

But as the scam collapsed, Ames was selling properties he did not even have planning permission for on land he did not own.

Former double glazing salesman David Ames, 70, (pictured at Southwark Crown Court today) pocketed millions by getting savers and pensioners to buy properties 'off plan'

Former double glazing salesman David Ames, 70, (pictured at Southwark Crown Court today) pocketed millions by getting savers and pensioners to buy properties 'off plan'

The Serious Fraud Office said he convinced more than 8,000 people to invest in the Harlequin Group - a hotel and resorts development venture endorsed by celebrities and politicians including the prime ministers of Barbados, St Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines

The Serious Fraud Office said he convinced more than 8,000 people to invest in the Harlequin Group - a hotel and resorts development venture endorsed by celebrities and politicians including the prime ministers of Barbados, St Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines

The total value of the planned resorts in St Vincent, St Lucia, Barbados, the Dominican Republic and another in Brazil was £1.4 billion. But as the scam collapsed, Ames was selling properties he did not even have planning permission for on land he did not own. Pictured: A Harlequin unbuilt property in St Vincent

The total value of the planned resorts in St Vincent, St Lucia, Barbados, the Dominican Republic and another in Brazil was £1.4 billion. But as the scam collapsed, Ames was selling properties he did not even have planning permission for on land he did not own. Pictured: A Harlequin unbuilt property in St Vincent

Investors lost £398m of their savings and pensions from 2006 to 2015, Prospero House crown court heard.

Victims believed they had a secure investment in property but with a funding shortfall of £1.2 billion by 2012 - seven years after Ames launched the scheme - investors were exposed to a near 100 per cent risk of loss.

Ames denied two counts of fraud by abuse of position but was found guilty of both charges by a jury at Prospero House Nightingale Court on Wednesday.

Ames, who owns a five-bedroom detached house worth more than £2m in rural Essex, was convicted of three counts of fraud by abuse of position while head of his company Harlequin Management Services South East Limited (HMSSE).

He made £6.2m in shares and dividends for himself and his family in the scam.

Ames planned developments in 15 locations, but work was only done on a refurbished hotel in St Lucia and the Buccament Bay development in St Vincent.

Around 9,000 units were sold but only 200 were ever built at Buccament Bay.

Prosecutor Michael Bowes earlier told the jury: 'The fraud was committed by David Ames, inducing investors to enter into contracts for the purchase of those off-plan properties.

'The true state of affairs in relation to those properties was to expose those investors to a loss or risk of loss to make a gain to him or his family.

'He gave them nothing in return, they lost all their money.'

By 2011 it was clear Ames's business plan was unworkable, but he sold thousands more units and ploughed new investors' money into Buccament Bay, knowing the development was a sham.

Pictured: David Ames with Andy Townsend. There is no suggestion that any of the stars who endorsed or promoted the business have been involved in any alleged wrongdoing

Pictured: David Ames with Andy Townsend. There is no suggestion that any of the stars who endorsed or

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