A GANG of fraudsters used a “sucker list” to con elderly and vulnerable investors out of more than £180,000 by selling them worthless diamonds and art, a court heard.

Ricky Burgess, 26, of Westcliff Parade, Westcliff, and business partner Jimmy Bottle, 27, set up swanky offices for their company Harrison and Carter at London’s Gherkin building.

They recruited Amir Damoussi, 26, of Swanage Road, Southend, as sales manager and Burgess’s brother Michael, 29, of Philpott Avenue, Southend, as a sales assistant.

The four men called thousands of numbers on “sucker lists” of people likely to be taken in by fraud, which are sold on the black market, the Old Bailey heard.

Victims were told they could make returns of ten to 20 per cent within a year if they invested in multi-coloured diamonds, or in prints of fine art.

Burgess and Bottle put the firm into liquidation in early 2014 and set up Globalist Solutions.

The court heard they returned to their former victims, offering to help them recoup their losses if they invested in the new company.

Burgess’s girlfriend Lucy Murch, 25, of Priory Crescent, Southend, was employed as office manager for both firms.

All five deny conspiracy to defraud.

Charles Crinion, prosecuting, said: “They used tactics such as cold calling or persistently and repetitively calling to get older people and vulnerable people to give them their money.

“They knew their representations were untrue. They knew the diamonds were coloured diamonds and ‘melee’ diamonds, which are very small and usually sold in parcels.

“We say the diamonds are low grade commercial diamonds often bought for about £1,000 and sold for three or four times that.”

One victim was targeted because he had suffered brain damage following a car accident.

The gang conned him out of £131,739.25 - almost the entirety of his accident compensation.

Another 75-year-old victim was scammed out of £7,400 after being cold-called 111 times in just three months.

He eventually wrote out a further cheque for £2,000, which the bank refused to cash because the frail pensioner’s handwriting was barely legible.

On one occasion Michael Burgess and Damoussi attended his home address unannounced to try and sell him a “special” diamond.

They tried to walk him to his local bank to withdraw the cash but were stopped when his neighbour intervened.

Mr Crinion said: “Many of the facts in the case are agreed. The real issue here is one of either honesty or dishonesty.

“The defendants say what happened was just business and they weren’t being dishonest.

“We say it was dishonest - most of the items were lost and we have looked at the other items that were sold and they were never going to come close to making a return.”

The trial, which is expected to last five weeks, continues.