A FINANCIAL guru who lived a lavish lifestyle after using share fraud cash to start up a popular Birmingham restaurant has been jailed for five years and three months.
Greg Whittlestone, who ploughed the money into the award-winning Great British Eatery fish and chip shop, ate at expensive restaurants, drove a Porsche, and had a penthouse flat in the city.
When the police net started to close in he fled to Mexico where he rang officers investigating his case and “boasted” that he was the “ring leader” in the fraud which netted £1.6 million.
Whittlestone, 30, of Brunswick Close, Stourbridge, had previously admitted charges of conspiracy to commit fraud and two money laundering charges.
Russell Kilshaw, 30, of Wheatsheaf Road, Edgbaston, a partner in the Great British Eatery in Broadway Plaza, near Five Ways, previously pleaded guilty to three money laundering charges and was jailed for two-and-a-half years.
Judge Phillip Parker QC described Whittlestone as an “intelligent, articulate and charismatic young man” and, although not at the heart of the fraud, was a “leading player” in the operation.
He said that Kilshaw had been recruited by Whittlestone but had still played a significant role.
The court heard that Whittlestone had offered to help find investors for a legitimate company called Fingerpin, which was hoping to develop biometric security devices.
A company acting as a brokerge agency was then set up to attract investors but this was used as a vehicle for a “boiler room fraud.”
Mark Heywood, prosecuting at Birmingham Crown Court, said the fraud involved offering shares to investors in Fingerpin which were overpriced.
Cold callers would use pressurised sales techniques to get victims, mainly elderly men, to invest in the scam.
The court heard one victim was an 84-year-old man, who had inherited a large sum of money, and who was persuaded to part with more than £200,000 after being “completely taken in”.
Another victim lost more than £350,000 in the scam.
Mr Heywood said by November 2008 Whittlestone had fled to Mexico from where he contacted the officers, but after trying to enter the United States he was extradited.
Nicholas Johnson, defending, said after being arrested Whittlestone’s life had spun out of control and he started drinking and taking cocaine.
He said he had profited by about £150,000 from the fraud.
Click to view the profile for Mark Heywood – Prosecuting