In 2017, a group of U.K. bankers was jailed after carrying out a complex scam that stole around £245 million from small businesses, leading to their owners losing their businesses and homes.
The gang spent the stolen money on lavish holidays and sex parties – but eventually ended up in jail.
The heinous actions of Lyndon Scourfield – described as an “utterly corrupt bank manager” – and his criminal gang happened when he worked for HBOS in Reading in Berkshire.
In a scam dating back to 2007, the gang stole money and spent it on lavish parties, superyachts, and sex parties.
They eventually ended up being sent to prison for a total of 47 years.
Judge Martin Beddoe said Scourfield was motivated by “rapacious greed” and had “got his tentacles into the businesses of ordinary and honest people and ripped them apart without a thought for those affected.”
Four of his partners in the scam were also jailed, including Scourfield’s business associate David Mills, who was the ringleader and jailed for 15 years in 2017.
In exchange for being introduced to HBOS’s clients, Mills would arrange for holidays and orgies for Scourfield.
During sentencing, Judge Beddoe said: “I do not know when or how David Mills got his hold on you, but that he did.
“He is the devil to whom you sold your soul, for sex, for luxury trips with and without your wife – for bling and for swag.”
Mills and Scourfield were aided by 73-year-old Michael Bancroft, who was jailed for 10 years and Mark Dobson, 56, jailed for four-and-a-half years.
Mills’ wife Alison was also jailed for three-and-a-half years.
The couple used the stolen cash to buy a yacht they called the “Powder Monkey.”
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What happened in the scam?
The fraud led to some victims losing their companies and even their homes.
One company, Zenith, based in Cambridge, was run into the ground.
Its owner, Nikki Turner, spoke during the court hearing.
She said: “They defrauded us, denied for 10 years that the fraud had happened, ignored the debt from the fraud and tried to evict us 22 times in order to cover up the fraud.”
“The other victims have gone through terrible things, they have gone through the loss of businesses and lost homes. Other people lost everything, including marriages broken up, because of this.”
Another victim of the scam was T.V. presenter Noel Edmonds, who said the staff at the Reading branch had ruined his business, the Unique Group.
As part of his attempts to highlight the case, the host of shows including Deal or No Deal and Noel’s House Party even berated the Lloyds board of directors at the bank’s 2018 AGM.
The presenter won a £5 million payout in 2019, and the CPS is considering the case after being referred by Thames Valley Police in July 2022.
The judge said Scourfield had not shown a “shred of remorse” even though his behavior ruined the lives of people and led to the collapse of their businesses.
He added: “People haven’t just lost money but in some instances their homes, family and friends. People who could have expected to be comfortable in retirement were left cheated, defeated and penniless.”
Mills lavished the Scourfield with clothes, jewellery, luxury hotel stays, and expensive meals.
His wife invited Dobson and the Scourfields on lavish trips to races at Ascot, and Mills, Bancroft, Scourfield, and their wives went on a holiday to Barbados.
The scam involved Scourfield putting pressure on the struggling businesses to use Mills’ advisory company to borrow more money from banks.
Scourfield then advanced massive sums of money to the companies when it was obvious they couldn’t pay it back.
What happened next?
As well as the jail sentences, Thames Valley Police began proceeds to get some of the money back.
Scourfield stole more than £680,000 in the scam and was told to pay back £131,000 in September 2019.
Mr and Mrs Mills, who stole around £58 million in the fraud, were both ordered to pay back more than £10 million at the same time, with 10 more years in prison the punishment if they didn’t.
Earlier this year, This is Money reported Lloyds, which owns HBOS, was offering a package of around £3 million for each of the victims of the fraud.
A Lloyds spokesman said: ‘We remain extremely sorry to all the customers who were impacted by the crimes committed at HBOS Reading and our intention has always been, and remains, to provide fair and generous compensation to those impacted by the fraud.”