Two mortgage brokers from a franchise of The Money Centre have been imprisoned after a £28m buy-to-let fraud.
Both of them worked at The Money Machine in High Wycombe, a franchise of The Money Centre.
John Stirzaker, 33, from Aylesbury was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment after being investigated by the Thames Valley Police’s Economic Crime Unit.
Paul Butcher, 31, from High Wycombe was sentenced to 18 months in prison.
A third individual involved in the scam was Butcher’s assistant Mark Stratford, 32, also from High Wycombe. He was sentenced to two years in jail.
In October 2008 suspicious activity was uncovered in mortgage applications. As a result, The Money Centre’s company director’s immediately informed the Financial Services Authority, the lenders, and the Thames Valley Police Economic Crime Unit.
In total lenders lent out £28m on mortgages with false valuations. The suspicion was that the fraudsters had applied for online valuations from national valuation agencies. When they received the completed valuations online, they would print them off and amend them by cutting out figures from previous valuations and sticking them onto the new ones, ensuring they got the maximum loan possible.
Stirzaker completed 109 fraudulent applications, making a minimum of £32,047 in commission plus bonuses.
Butcher completed 85 fraudulent mortgage applications. He obtained more than £11,091 in commission. Stratford was involved in all of
Butcher’s applications and received 10% of all the latter’s commission but is not a broker.
Confiscation proceedings have commenced under The Proceeds of Crime Act and the ECU has called on lenders to improve their internal systems.
Detective Sergeant Nick Bell, from the ECU, says: “The impact of the actions of these three individuals upon the Money Centre cannot be underestimated, their fraudulent activity to generate higher commissions and buy property for themselves contributed to a massive financial loss to the company and a huge number of people being made redundant in these difficult times.”
Lloyds Banking Group stopped accepting mortgage applications from The Money Centre in December 2009 and as a result the brokerage was forced to make 300 staff redundant.
Mark Alexander, co-founder of The Money Centre, told Mortgage Strategy that he was delighted that the three had been sent to jail.
He says: “We don’t think the sentences are long enough – they have had their assets stripped but it is never going to repair the damage that was made from making 300 people redundant on Christmas Eve last year.
“Their selfish actions meant that a lot of people lost their jobs.”