Fraudsters jailed over £13.7m pension scam that conned 245 people out of life savings

22 April 2022, 20:25

Alan Barratt, 62, of Althorne, Essex, and Susan Dalton, 66, of Rochdale, Lancashire, have been jailed.
Alan Barratt, 62, of Althorne, Essex, and Susan Dalton, 66, of Rochdale, Lancashire, have been jailed. Picture: PA

By Sophie Barnett

Two fraudsters have been jailed for causing "misery" to almost 250 people by conning them out of their life savings in a multi-million pound scam.

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Susan Dalton, 66, and Alan Barratt, 62, were sentenced to four years and eight months and five years and seven months respectively for helping con 245 victims out of a total of £13.7 million.

The average amount each person lost was £55,000, but some lost many times more.

The multi-million pound scam between 2012 and 2014 caused "such misery to so many people", Judge Gregory Perrins said.

Some victims have suffered mental health problems, with 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.

The court was told that the scam's "mastermind" David Austin killed himself in 2019 after being invited for a police interview under caution.

Dalton and Barratt, who were based in Spain, enticed savers with the promise of unrealistic returns, cash bonuses, and John Lewis vouchers before getting them to transfer their pensions from legitimate schemes to fraudulent ones.

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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.

Dalton, 66, of Brookdale, Rochdale, Lancashire, was a trustee for four fraudulent occupational pension schemes.

She duped 103 victims out of just over £5.9 million, taking around £126,000 for herself, the court heard.

Meanwhile, Barratt, 62, of Burnham Road, Althorne, Essex, personally profited by around £343,000.

He was a trustee for six schemes and sucked in 139 victims and over £7.7 million of their savings, the judge 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.

Another man, referred to as Mr Holloway, handed over £300,000 and has been left "devastated".

Pauline Padden, 58, who lost £45,000, told the PA news agency the experience had "brought a lot of negativity and insecurity and anxiety" into her life.

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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.

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.

The pair were said to have passed most 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.

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.

Both Dalton and Barratt admitted one count each of fraud by abuse of position.

Defending Barratt, Senghin Kong said he had been kept in the dark about many aspects of the scheme and was "a tool to be used" by Austin.

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.

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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