A former Premier League footballer - who used the names of stars including Rio Ferdinand to entice investors into a £15 million pyramid scheme - has been jailed for seven-and-a-half years.
Ex-Charlton Athletic player Richard Rufus, 48, spent hundreds of thousands of pounds funding his own lifestyle after convincing friends and family into putting their money in a foreign currency exchange scheme.
He used his status as a former sportsman - who made 288 appearances for the Addicks in the Premier League and Championship - to give the impression he was wealthy and successful, when in reality he was failing to make a profit from the trading activities.
Rufus claimed he was an experienced foreign exchange broker but was in fact using his victims’ money to reimburse those who had paid in as part of a pyramid scheme.
He told investors current and ex-footballers, including former England and Manchester United defender Ferdinand, 44, were already on board.
He claimed to one one victim that he only traded 5% of the capital investment, which meant 95% would have been retained safely – reducing the risk of incurring large losses.
Of the £15 million paid to accounts controlled by Rufus, investors received back a total of around £7.6 million, meaning he banked around £8 million.
As a result of the scheme – which ran from May 2007 to the end of 2010 – relationships and loyalties between friends had been shattered, with many suffering huge financial and mental health difficulties, City of London Police said.
Analysis of his finances showed Rufus spent some £300,000 on his own lifestyle – including payments for travel, car finance, restaurants and shopping.
Among the lies he told was that he did not need a licence from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) as there was an exemption that permitted him to trade on behalf of friends and family.
But the FCA provided evidence in relation to the offence of carrying on a regulated activity without authorisation which helped prosecutors to refute Rufus’ claims.
Rufus was found guilty of four counts of fraud by false representation, money laundering and one count of carrying out a regulated activity without authorisation, following a four-week trial, police said.
He was sentenced at Southwark Crown Court on Thursday (12 January) to seven-and-a-half years’ imprisonment.
Det Con Claire Sandford-Day, from the fraud operations team at the City of London Police, said Rufus “(made) it appear that he was leading a life of wealth as a result of his former career and investments”.
“Rufus deliberately deceived those who were close to him and those who trusted him to scam them out of substantial sums of money,” she said.
Roger Makanjuola, from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), said: “Rufus acted in a selfish manner without any concern for his victims. He took advantage of his status as a professional athlete, a respected church member and he used the goodwill of his family and friends to scam them and associates out of millions of pounds by falsely claiming he was able to offer a low-risk investment in the Foreign Exchange Market.
“He claimed that he had been successful with his investment strategies previously, but the investments were fraught with risk and he lost his victims’ much-needed money.
“While making these huge losses, he put approximately £2 million into his personal accounts, allegedly for the purposes of investment but this was never transferred over to his trading account. We now commence confiscation proceedings to seek to recover his ill-gotten gains.”