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Fraudster conned people for £846k in teak tree scam
A FINANCE company boss has been found guilty of scamming investors out of £846,000 in a bogus Sri Lankan teak tree plantation scheme.
Matthew Ames, 38, of Goldfinch Lane, Thundersley, was found guilty at Isleworth Crown Court yesterday of one charge of fraudulent trading in connection with the Investor Club.
He ran the firmfrom a converted farm barn in Dunton Road, Laindon, until it was liquidated in March 2011.
Ames, who set up the business in 2008, had denied the charge, but after more than 19 hours of deliberation ten out of 12 jurors found he had convinced clients to part with savings in return for unrealistically high interest rates.
The court heard he promised people interest of between 12 and 15 per cent on the basis their money would be invested in saplings planted on teak tree plantations in Sri Lanka.
The court heard one couple were encouraged to loan Ames £78,000 in return for 15 per cent interest, so he could buy land for growing trees.
However, within weeks the cash was spent on foreign travel, including a family holiday to the Caribbean Island of Mustique, company bills and other expenses.
Ames insisted the trips were legitimate and his business could have been viable, if the Financial Services Authority had not shut him down.
He said he bought 5,000 saplings in Sri Lanka and left them with a local man he called Eddie, but could not back this up with receipts.
The Judge, Justice Paul Dugdale, allowed the jury a majority verdict yesterday morning after they failed to reach a unanimous decision after retiring a week ago.
Ames has denied a second count of fraudulent trading in connection with another eco-investment firm run from the same address.
He is accused of conning investors into parting with a total of about £430,000 to buy bogus carbon credits, which can be traded like shares on green stock exchanges, in return for 12 per cent interest.
The jury will today resume deliberations on this count.