Churchgoer conned fellow worshippers out of £3m

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The Independent Online

A churchgoer posing as a City trader is facing jail after conning his fellow worshippers out of millions of pounds to pay for a life of "wild extravagance".

Lindani Mangena, 24, dazzled members of the Seventh Day Adventist church with financial gobbledegook to gather funds for a company he claimed would offer returns of up to 3,000 per cent profits.

Southark Crown Court heard how hundreds of members of the south London church fell for the "sophisticated" con – which lasted from July 2003 to March 2004 – offering a "minimum" of £3.2m.

Along with two others, Mangena – who had dropped out of university to work in a Romford cinema – operated from offices in the City.

The luxurious lifestyle was with hard-earned cash donated by droves of housewives, pensioners and widows, as well as "cleaners and others in similarly humble jobs", the court heard.

One victim quit his job to get involved in the fake project, another lost £185,000, and scores of others remortgaged their houses and plunged into depression as they struggled to pay the bills.

The money was frittered away on multimillion-pound properties – including in St George's Wharf, Vauxhall – along with top-range cars and exotic holidays, one of which involved a stay in the royal suite at Dubai's seven-star Burj al Arab hotel, costing £55,815.

Mangena, of Romford, Essex, did not give evidence, but claimed through his barrister that he had set up a legitimate business, only for it to be corrupted by his greedy co-defendants.

But he was unanimously convicted of fraudulent trading, money laundering and carrying on an unauthorised investment business. Dean Hinkson, 29, of West Croydon, and Curtis Powell, 31, of Thornton Heath, claimed they had been duped by Mangena. But they were found guilty of one charge of communicating an invitation or inducement to engage in investment activity.