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Two jailed over £1.3m scam

PUBLISHED: 19:09 24 April 2004 | UPDATED: 04:49 02 March 2010

TWO men who fleeced investors in a £1.3million scam are today beginning sentences totalling 11 years thanks to Suffolk fraud squad detectives.

One of the men lived a lavish jet-set lifestyle while milking their unwitting clients' funds, through the Ipswich-based companies they set up, squandering them on luxuries for himself and his wife.

TWO men who fleeced investors in a £1.3million scam are today beginning sentences totalling 11 years thanks to Suffolk fraud squad detectives.

One of the men lived a lavish jet-set lifestyle while milking their unwitting clients' funds, through the Ipswich-based companies they set up, squandering them on luxuries for himself and his wife.

Nigerian Joseph Hopewell, formerly of Suffolk, and partner-in-crime Malcolm Mascarenas, of Chelmsford, duped people into ploughing money into a company that never got off the ground.

Hopewell, 51, who claimed to be a doctor with diplomatic immunity, lived the lap of luxury before the law finally caught up with him. He bought the £850,000 Newmans Hall, in Sudbury - a house set in 12 acres with a swimming pool - and travelled in flash cars driven by a £20,000 chauffeur.

His wife Jannat, said to be an African princess, went on shopping sprees in London, Paris, New York and Barcelona - squandering £950,000 of company funds.

At Norwich Crown Court yesterday, Hopewell was handed a six-year sentence, with 71-year-old Mascarenas given five years. Both were banned from running businesses for eight years.

After the case, judge Paul Downes commended Felixstowe-based detective constable Keith Johnson and detective sergeant Kevin Hegarty, both of the fraud squad, for all of their work on the case.

The court was told Hopewell and Mascarenas had planned to set up a business known as Zircon Airways Corporation Ltd, with flights to Benin, in Africa.

The pair, who met in the Colchester office of Allied Dunbar, claimed their plan was to grow crops and distribute them throughout Europe.

Hopewell told Mascarenas he was a doctor and persuaded him to help establish a language school for the poor in Africa, with proceeds from crop sales to be used to set it up.

But the company never took off, despite conning investors into ploughing money into the company. False receipts were issued in the name of Merchant Barncorp Credit Commerce Ltd.

Hopewell, now of Judson Avenue, Manchester, admitted two offences of fraudulent trading, one of a £200,000 theft from the company and stealing a £106,000 credit transfer by deception. He also pleaded guilty to carrying on an investment business when not authorised.

The court heard Mascarenas, of Multon Lea, in Chelmsford, was known as "Mr Allied Dunbar".

The father-of-four had held the company's franchise for many years and persuaded his customers to switch their investments to Merchant Barncorp Credit Commerce Ltd. He claimed it had the backing of an American bank paying annual interest rates of between 9.5 per cent and 10pc.

He admitted thefts and obtaining money by deception to the tune of £800,000. The crimes took place between January 2000 and November 2001.

Some of the proceeds were spent on a £112,000 house in Ward Road, Ipswich. This will be sold and could be used to pay off some of the creditors.

Sentencing the pair, judge Downes said: "You, Hopewell, were the leading light but you Mascarenas, were a willing follower. The pleas were entered after some time and with some reluctance.

"This is a dreadful story of fraud on people who relied on their savings and you Mascarenas were in a position of trust.

He added Mascarenas continued his life of crime despite receiving warnings from the authorities. He has now lost of all of his £560,000 life savings.

N Were you fleeced by Hopewell and Mascarenas? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk or join the forum at www.eveningstar.co.uk

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