Man jailed for conning £15m from investors

Fraudster spent cash from bogus hedge fund on fleet of luxury cars and antiques

A conman who funded his luxury lifestyle by persuading wealthy clients to deposit nearly £15m in a bogus investment scheme has been jailed for four and a half years.

Marc Duchesne, 47, duped victims with the promise of an 11 per cent return on their outlay, a court was told. But rather than invest their funds, he simply kept the money for himself and spent it. In less than two years, he bought a string of Ferraris, a Rolls-Royce Phantom, a Bentley Arnage and several Hummers. He also bought a fleet of motorbikes and gave a speedboat to a friend. He spent £60,000 on cosmetic dentistry, £22,000 on cigars, and lived in an £11,000-a-month flat in London's Canary Wharf that he furnished with £1m of antiques. When he needed to travel abroad, he chartered jets, jurors were told.

Judge Michael Gledhill, sentencing Duchesne at Southwark Crown Court yesterday, said the case was solely about greed, telling the accused: "You became involved because of it, hoping to make easy money for nothing."

Duchesne's fraud centred on a high-yield investment hedge fund run by his UK-registered company Benchmark Asset Management (BAM). It was based on the simple yet highly unlikely premise that investors would receive returns of up to 11 per cent a month and their initial outlay would be safe.

Stephen Winberg, for the prosecution, said Duchesne promised victims their cash would be kept in a "non-depletion account" at NatWest. He added: "It was a powerful lure. It was a sort of 'heads I win, tails I can't lose'."

Duchesne lied that his company was regulated by the Financial Services Authority, and managed to rake in £2.9m from British customers, as well as €12.4m and 250,000 Swiss francs from clients in Europe. Funds were deposited in a BAM bank account, and from there transferred to Duchesne's private accounts. To keep his clients happy, he sent monthly statements which showed healthy returns on their cash. Some became suspicious, but their attempts to contact BAM were "fobbed off", jurors heard.

One client, who invested £500,000 and was promised a monthly income of £35,000, smelt a rat. When he asked for £70,000 back, he was given it. This, the jury heard, allayed his suspicions, but when he requested the remainder of his money, he heard nothing.

As well as his jail term, Duchesne, of East Finchley, north London, was disqualified from being a director for 10 years. His co-defendant Thierry Doutrepont, 56, of Telford, Shropshire, admitted making false or deceptive statements and was sentenced to two years in jail. Michael Gallagher, 65, of Walsall, and Edgar Hutton, 64, of Nottingham, admitted carrying on a regulated activity while unauthorised. They were each ordered to carry out 200 hours of community service.

Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
Sport
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Travel
travel
News
Robyn Lawley
people
News
people
News
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmThe film is surprisingly witty, but could do with taking itself more seriously, says Geoffrey Macnab
News
people
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Life and Style
lifeDon't get caught up on climaxing
Life and Style
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star