Mark Barry Starling, aged 57 of Farnham, Surrey, was today sentenced at Southwark Crown Court to 5 years’ imprisonment for defrauding investors of just under £3 million in relation to unauthorised investment schemes he operated between 2008 and 2017. Over a period of 9 years between 2008 and 2017, Mr Starling purported to run investment funds and obtained investment monies from his friends and acquaintances. They entrusted him with just under £3 million of their money.
In sentencing, HHJ Bartle QC said that Mr Starling had defrauded investors in an ‘appalling way’. The Judge said that ‘not one word of what [Mr Starling told investors] was true’ and that he had consistently told his victims ‘a pack of lies’. Mr Starling claimed to be running three funds, the ‘Pilot Dax Fund’, the ‘Shadow Dax Fund’ and the ‘Pilot Eurostoxx Fund’, and described himself as a ‘proprietary futures trader’. It seems he did have an interest in these markets, but little more than that. He traded just £8,000 of the £3 million invested with him, on which he made a loss of £2,450, yet managed to spend over £1 million maintaining his own lifestyle.
Other victims’ investment
Mr Starling would sometimes pay money back to his investors on request to sustain the illusion of running a successful investment business. However, the reality was that these payments were just funded from other victims’ investment monies.
In order to cover up his deception and prolong the fraud, Mr Starling resorted to forging documents and correspondence purporting to be from brokerages, and bank statements. He also registered web domain names and created email addresses in names similar to a legitimate brokerage, and for an entirely fictitious brokerage. The Judge said that the forgeries were ‘sophisticated’ and the whole scheme demonstrated the way that Mr Starling had ‘abused a position of trust’. Mr Starling was never authorised by the FCA to carry out any regulated activity.
Mark Steward, Executive Director of Enforcement and Market Oversight at the FCA, said: ‘Mr Starling was never authorised to carry on business as an investment manager or as a futures trader. His sophisticated and dishonest masquerade has caused substantial losses to innocent investors. The FCA is committed to ensuring that criminals who operate unauthorised investment schemes are brought to justice and our quick action here has prevented the losses from becoming much worse.’
In total, some 24 investors are known to have put money into the funds, of whom 17 lost a total of around £1.8 million. At the hearing, the FCA commenced confiscation proceedings against Mr Starling, and it is expected that the victims will get some limited compensation from funds restrained by the FCA in April 2017.
Mr Starling received a sentence of 5 years imprisonment for an offence of Fraud by False Representation under Section 1 of the Fraud Act 2006 and a concurrent sentence of 12 months imprisonment for Breach of the General Prohibition under S19 of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 in that he operated a collective investment scheme without being FCA authorised or exempt. This makes a total sentence of 5 years.