Fraudster jailed over £13.7m pension scam – 245 people were duped out of life savings

A pensioner from Rochdale has been jailed for more than four years for her role in a multi-million pound pension scam that saw almost 250 people duped out of life savings. Fraudsters Susan Dalton, 66, and Alan Barratt, 62, helped with 245 victims out of a total of £13.7 million between 2012 and 2014, a court was told.

A man said to have been the scam’s ‘mastermind’ – David Austin – took his own life in 2019 after being invited for a police interview under caution, a judge was told. Dalton, from Brookdale near Syke, Rochdale, and Barratt, of Burnham Road in Althorne, Essex, both admitted one count of fraud by abuse of position. Dalton was jailed today for four years and eight months. Barratt got five years, seven months.

Passing sentence on Friday at Southwark Crown Court, Judge Gregory Perrins said the pair caused ‘such misery to so many people’, with victims suffering mental health problems and some even attempting suicide. “Each account that I have read is a story of a life ruined by your actions and you should both be ashamed,” he said.

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The average amount each person lost was £55,000, but some lost many times more. The court was told Dalton and Barratt, who were based in Spain, enticed savers with the promise of unrealistic returns, cash bonuses – and even John Lewis vouchers – before getting them to transfer their pensions from legitimate schemes to fraudulent ones.

The judge was told the cash bonuses, which victims were led to believe were part of a commission payment from the new schemes, were actually taken from their savings.

Their victims, meanwhile, have told how it ‘ruined’ their lives and left them ‘panicky’. Pauline Padden, 58, who lost £45,000, said the experience had ‘brought a lot of negativity and insecurity and anxiety’ into her life. The mother-of-three, who has worked as a critical care nurse in the NHS since she was 18, fell victim to the scam after receiving a text promising higher returns on her pension and bonuses for transferring her current pension funds.

Alan Barratt arrives at court

As she was spending much of her time caring for her dying mother in 2013, she was unable to make a steady income and was drawn in by the promise of extra cash.

She said: “I’m 58 and I’ve got no thought at all about retiring and all around me; friends, family, colleagues, they’re all talking about their retirement and what they’re going to do, and I can ‘t do any of that because that’s been taken from me. Whoever did this had every intention of taking it off hard-working people basically. And they have just robbed my retirement from me, it’s gone now.”

Dalton and Barratt were said to have passed the lion’s share of the money to Austin, who used it for his own personal benefit, to fund his businesses, pay others involved in the operation and enrich himself and family members. During the scam, the court heard Dalton was a trustee for four fraudulent occupational pension schemes and duped 103 victims out of just over £5.9 million, taking around £126,000 for herself.

Meanwhile, Barratt was a trustee for six schemes and sucked in 139 victims and over £7.7 million of their savings, personally profiting by around £343,000, the judge was told. A civil trial brought by The Pensions Regulator against Austin, Barratt, Dalton and others took place at the High Court in 2018, after which the trio were ordered to repay millions in ill-gotten gains.

However, the funds, most of which were transferred to offshore accounts, have never been recovered, the court was told. The judge heard Kent firefighter Glenn Perkins, who transferred £146,000 to the scammers in 2013, felt ‘worthless and useless’ and now struggles with mental health problems.

Southwark Crown Court

Another man, referred to as Mr Holloway, handed over £300,000 and has been left ‘devastated’. The judge was told Dalton and Barratt ‘deceived’ banks in Britain into believing they were in the UK in order to open accounts.

A solicitor was also instructed to send disgruntled victims comfort letters and threaten legal action, the court was told. The scam included the creation of shell companies set up to pose as named employers for the fraudulent occupational pension schemes, while Barratt and Dalton were named as directors, the judge heard.

George Payne, representing Dalton, told the court that while she had acted improperly as a trustee, she believed the pensions schemes were legitimate and even convinced her own brother to invest £250,000. In a statement read to the court, she said she felt ‘huge remorse’ for her role in the scam, adding: “I want to sincerely apologize to all those who have been affected, including my own brother.”

In addition to their jail terms, both have been banned from being directors of companies for eight years. A confiscation hearing, to recover what might remain of the profits of the scam, is set to take place in November.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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