Director who swindled £150m from investors and Hollywood stars is jailed
13 August 2010
A company director who fleeced hundreds of investors out of their life savings was jailed for three-and-a-half-years at Blackfriars Crown Court last Thursday.
William Godley, 41, the former director of the £250 million investment company - Imperial Consolidated Group - faces imprisonment and a six year disqualification as director, after pleading guilty to conspiracy to defraud in 2008.
Godley was involved in a large ‘Ponzi' scheme, which lured investors from around the globe, including Hollywood Actors such as Wesley Snipes, to hand over their money. He promised high returns through commercial lending, when in reality newly-invested money was used to pay fake profits.
The company was in fact loss-making and insolvent, according to the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), and left 3,500 investors out of pocket.
Originally promising customers "total asset protection" administrators of Imperial said they could only pay back investors a maximum of 5 per cent of their money.
While most victims lost all their investment, such as Japanese Yuichi Yoshida who lost a total of £16.7 million, the directors were apparently splashing out on sports cars and extravagant holidays.
During the four years leading up to the company's demise, around £253 million was invested in the Imperial group, and £150 million of the money could not be accounted for.
Godley was warned in court that he could have received a seven-year sentence for a "very serious fraud" if he hadn't entered in an early guilty plea.
Judge Elizabeth Gloster said: "On any basis this is a very serious fraud in which substantial sums of money have been lost by investors, many of whom have suffered considerable hardship."
The Imperial group had offices located all over the world, including in Europe, Australia and the Caribbean islands, and following the companies collapse in 2002 it was investigated by the SFO.
After an eight-year investigation, and two other ‘disappointing' trials Godley is the first to be sentenced to time in prison over the Ponzi scam.
The managing director Jared Brook, 39, and chief director Lincoln Fraser, 37, were both cleared after two juries failed to reach a verdict.
The court heard during the inconclusive trial that Hollywood actor Wesley Snipes had also been embezzled out of $100,000, and had spent over an hour on the phone to Brook's office trying to get his cash back.
SFO director Richard Alderman spoke about the other two trials, and said: "It is very disappointing both for the victims and the defendants that the jury could not reach agreement on a number of the counts on the indictment."