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Financial Crimes

UK man pleads guilty in $130 million international investment fraud and money laundering scheme

TAMPA, Fla. - Richard Sinclair Pope, 53, of the United Kingdom, who was extradited from Spain earlier this year to face prosecution in this case, pleaded guilty Thursday to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud.

The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Tampa, the U.S. Secret Service and the City of London Police, with assistance by other foreign law enforcement authorities.

Pope faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison. In addition, he will be ordered to pay restitution to the victim-investors and to forfeit his interest in any real property, bank accounts, an airplane, vessels, and vehicles linked to the scheme.

"The victims of this scheme thought that they were legitimately investing in their futures and some lost substantial amounts of money," said ICE HSI Special Agent in Charge in Tampa Susan McCormick. "We at ICE HSI will continue to work with our law enforcement partners, both here and abroad, to aggressively investigate these cases and ensure that those who profit by taking advantage of others face justice for their crimes."

According to the plea agreement, from at least as early as July 2004 through at least March 13, 2008, Pope and others engaged in a fraud scheme, in which they hijacked the identities of dormant, publicly-traded companies in the United States; caused the sale of virtually worthless shares of stock in the hijacked companies to victim-investors, primarily in the United Kingdom, using boiler room telemarketers, mostly in Spain, who employed high pressure and misleading sales techniques; caused victim-investors to wire their investment funds to bank accounts in the Middle District of Florida and elsewhere; and used the victim-investors' funds to perpetuate the scheme for their own personal enrichment.

Pope was not personally involved with the hijacking of U.S. dormant, publicly-traded companies. Rather, he participated as a principal in those functions essential to operation of the fraud scheme in Europe.

Together, with others, Pope facilitated the sale of worthless shares of stock in the hijacked companies by, among other things, participating in the establishment of infrastructure utilized in the promotion and sale of the stock to victim-investors outside the U.S. and by participating in the ongoing operation of boiler rooms overseas.

During the course of the scheme, Pope and his co-conspirators generated no less than $42,519,433.60 in fraudulent proceeds.

The ICE Attaché in London, United Kingdom's Serious Fraud Office, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Canadian Securities Investigators and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) also participated in this investigation.

U.S. Attorney Robert E. O'Neill stated, "This case demonstrates the magnitude of fraudulent activity and its impact on victims everywhere. The cooperation of law enforcement agencies around the world has made this case successful, thus far. We look forward to continuing our work with them in bringing this and similar cases to a successful close."

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Rachelle DesVaux Bedke and Kelley Howard-Allen.