Victoria Beckham's ex-brother-in-law has been jailed for his role in a near-£1 million fraud that saw the famous family's name used in a scam that conned vulnerable victims into handing over their savings.
Darren Flood was a director in a firm that cold-called unsuspecting members of the public, mainly the elderly, and persuaded them to invest thousands of pounds in practically worthless materials, falsely promising big returns.
The 40-year-old, who was previously married to the former Spice Girl’s sister Louise Adams, was handed a 30-month jail sentence at Kingston Crown Court.
The Beckham name was mentioned to some potential investors to make the boiler room scam seem legitimate, although Flood's barrister argued he had not personally sought to capitalise on the family link.
There is no suggestion that Louise Adams, Victoria Beckham, her husband David or any other current family member knew anything about the TCL fraud or about any use of the Beckham name.
The group targeted vulnerable people - including an 83-year-old woman who lost her entire life savings of £179,000 - phoning them from rented offices in London's Canary Wharf.
The scammers even wined and dined some of the victims as they ramped up the pressure to invest more money into buying rare earth elements, metals and oxides which are used in products such as mobile phones and computers. Police, however, said that in reality the particular materials on offer were of such low value they might as well have been flour.
While Surrey Police said the force is aware of 24 victims who invested more than £800,000, the true scale of the crimes is believed to be much larger, with up to 30 more victims, who officers believe did not wish to come forward due to embarrassment at having been conned.
Some people took out loans to cover their investments, meaning the true total sum lost to investors is likely to be more than £1 million, the leading officer in the investigation said.
Police said the father of footballer Joe Cole was discussed at one point by the gang as someone who could be a potential target, as the group sought to attract investments from "high net worth clients".
Police said Flood was responsible for marketing The Commodities Link (TCL), as it claimed to be a "truly global brand" made up of commodities brokers with high value offices.
But in reality the firm was run by a gang of what police described as "criminals in suits".
Detective Inspector Matt Durkin, who led the investigation, said: "This is a criminal gang who, dressed in suits, used big, long complicated words and flashy brochures but, fundamentally, they are just criminals."
Deputy circuit judge Michael Carroll, sentencing, said the investment scheme was "fraudulent from the outset".
He told the group: "This must have been known to you once you became intimately involved in the running of the company or played a part in it."
Flood, of Ware Road in Hertford, who owned almost a quarter of The Commodities Link (TCL), was part of the business alongside his half-brother Jonathan Docker and their cousin Gennaro Fiorentino.
Wearing a dark suit with a blue shirt and tie, Flood gave no visible reaction as he was sentenced.
Fiorentino, 38, of Wetherell Road in Hackney, played "the leading role" in the company, Judge Carroll said, jailing him for five years.
Qualified accountant Mark Whitehead, from Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, had acted as the company's finance director.
The 60-year-old, who the court heard was previously cautioned for fraud, was handed a three-and-a-half-year sentence.
TCL's office manager Vikki King, 39, from Basildon, broke down in tears as she was jailed for 27 months.
The court heard the mother-of-four had previously been given a suspended sentence for benefit fraud.
All four defendants had denied conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation but were convicted by a jury in November last year.
Stephen Todd, who was brought in by Fiorentino to help run the company, and TCL's main salesman, Paul Muldoon, had pleaded guilty to the same charge, which is dated between April 2012 and August 2014.
Muldoon, 34, of Basildon in Essex, who was jailed in 2010 for fraud offences, fled the UK after being questioned about TCL's activities, and was extradited from Spain last year.
Judge Carroll, handing him a four-year sentence, said he had been an "unscrupulous salesman preying on people who wanted to make investments for their future".
Todd, 37, of Blackwall Way in Tower Hamlets, who is currently serving time in prison for a similarly-styled "land banking" fraud, was sentenced to one year behind bars, to run consecutively with his current term.
Docker, 32, of High Road, Chigwell, Essex, was jailed for 30 months and disqualified from being a director of a company for three years.
Flood and Whitehead were disqualified for five years each.
Muldoon, Fiorentino and King were all made the subject of Serious Crime Prevention Orders.