A compulsive gambler, who swindled clients out of more than £750,000 by offering incredible deals on high profile sporting events, has been jailed for three years and four months.
James Edward Maxwell, who ran three Sittingbourne-based sports memorabilia and hospitality companies, "spun a staggering web of lies in order to persuade wealthy clients and charities to hand over cash, including claims that his young son had been diagnosed with cancer" according to Kent Police.
The 41-year-old, formerly of Leigh Road in Sittingbourne, was involved with three businesses selling sports memorabilia in the town - The Autograph Store in High Street, Sports Idols on St George's Business Park, and Premier Signings and Hospitality Ltd, registered at Velum Drive. None of the three businesses are still in operation.
Police found that from 2009 he had defrauded customers out of thousands of pounds by asking them to transfer cash into the business account for goods but giving them his own personal bank details, taking cash and using funds in the business account as his own. Maxwell also assumed the identity of one of his colleagues, unbeknownst to them, and made up other aliases to protect his own reputation and convince clients they were dealing with a larger company. He manipulated friends and customers into investing into Sports Idols and Premier Signings and Hospitality by professing 'cash flow' troubles and promising paybacks with interest - but the refunds rarely materialised and, when they did, were often followed by another plea for a loan.
Maxwell, who now lives in Horsham, Sussex, had set up another company, Premier Signings and Hospitality, in early 2011, auctioned off sports hospitality packages at charity auctions, private functions and directly to clients. He offered a multitude of packages for some of the most famous sports events in the world in 2010 and 2011, including the Monaco and British Grands Prix.
Police say that he lured customers into handing over tens of thousands of pounds for dream encounters with sports stars including Formula One drivers and football players, and accommodation on a super-yacht owned by motorsport tycoon Eddie Jordan. Maxwell claimed he could offer them at cost price because he had ‘connections' with the celebrities, telling them: ‘It's not what you know in this business, it's who you know.' However, following the Police investigation it would appear that Maxwell had never met any of the famous people he was offering as part of the deals.
He offered the packages - which ostensibly included flights and accommodation at five-star hotels or yachts - at incredible knock-down prices, taking deposits and payments from clients. Many would then be told days before that the yacht had been double-booked or the deal had been cancelled, only for Maxwell to promise to invest their money into another package, none of which ever materialised.
Other clients grew suspicious with repeated excuses from Maxwell, who regularly forgot which alias he was supposed to be using and signed emails off with the wrong name, and did their own research. They then found the incredible deal they had signed up for would cost so much more in real life that the prices Maxwell was offering were completely unrealistic.
When challenged, Maxwell would recite a litany of lies, claiming over and over again, to a number of different people at different times, that his father had just died. He also claimed to have been diagnosed with testicular cancer and told one client he was struggling to keep his finances straight as his young son had just been diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer. He would promise refunds and repeatedly insist he had made bank transfers, which investigators later proved never left his account, or write cheques for huge amounts that would immediately bounce.
Maxwell also defrauded investors in a Spanish property scheme and began offering clients cut-price luxury package holidays to New York and St Lucia, leaving them puzzled and furious when they discovered he had never so much as booked them on a single flight after taking their money.
Kent Police began an investigation into Maxwell after a number of clients came forward to report him. Officers from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate spent months following Maxwell's messy paper trail and analysing financial accounts to find that he used most of the vast sums of money given to him in good faith on gambling, sometimes spending up to thousands of pounds in a single day. He also paid out on a number of luxury holidays for his family.
The painstaking work into his case was still going on, with officers poring over his finances, locating victims from years-old scams and working to build up a huge dossier of evidence against him when, on 14th January 2013, Maxwell was charged with 17 counts of fraudulent activity.
At Maidstone Crown Court on Monday 11th November 2013, he pleaded guilty to 17 charges of Section 1 fraud and offences under the Fraudulent Trading Companies Act 2006, with 37 other offences taken into account. He was jailed last Friday (17th January) and was sentenced to 40 months imprisonment for 17 offences to run concurrent. He was also disqualified from holding any Limited Company position for ten years.
His father-in-law, Terence Boswell, of Surrey, had been lured into fraudulent activity alongside him and was given a nine-month suspended sentence after pleading guilty to two counts of transferring criminal property.
Investigating officer, DC Steve Payne from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, told SFM News: "This was a huge investigation into, what turned out to be, a staggering web of lies spun by Maxwell in a desperate attempt to keep his gambling habit afloat. He betrayed dozens of people with his fraud when it emerged the deals he was offering were simply too good to be true. He was also a traitor to his clients, whom he manipulated into loaning him money and investing in the businesses he was involved with as silent partners. Maxwell preyed on people's hopes and dreams. He would offer dazzling hospitality packages, promising this, that and the other, to sports fans willing to pay vast sums of money to meet their heroes and watch these huge sports events in the lap of luxury. None of these packages ever materialised. His victims were left confused and embarrassed, but more than that, they were left out of pocket after promising their hard-earned cash to this swindler."
DC Payne went on to add: "His increasingly unstable structure of deceit led to his downfall - he had been betraying the trust of his colleagues for months by using their names and blaming botched payments on them, and eventually became so confused by his own lies that he forgot who he was pretending to be. He asked one hospitality source to ensure two parties were kept away from one another as one group knew him by one name and the other another name entirely. Maxwell has a gambling problem, that much is clear. His account went from dizzying highs to lows in just days as he would take his clients' cash and gamble it all away. As the net began closing in, he made even riskier moves in an attempt to keep the money coming in, but our investigators followed his every financial move. To see him in the dock and to know he is behind bars is to see the result of years' worth of work by the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate come to fruition."