A Manchester businessman has been convicted of involvement in a huge international “advance fee” fraud.
Michael Rashman was found guilty of a fraud plot after a four-week trial at Liverpool Crown Court.
During the trial, prosecuting QC Jonathan Turner told the court that Rashman was “a clever man — and this was a clever fraud.
“It went undetected for six years and many people were taken in along the way, some losing their homes and their livelihoods, some their self-respect and respect within their own communities, some their life savings and some the life savings of others who trusted them.” Victims were “mercilessly conned”.
Rashman, of Kersal Gardens, Salford, denied conspiracy to defraud between January 1, 1998 and April 20, 2004.
The case, Mr Turner said, involved a fraud committed by people who charged fees in advance for a service, which they had no intention of performing.
Rashman and his business partner, Carl Montlake, created and operated a number of businesses, beginning in 1990, trading in the sub-prime mortgage market for both residential and business property.
The main vehicle for the fraud was Alliance International Ventures purportedly offering funding to foreign applicants for foreign commercial projects ranging from $1m to $120m.
Montlake, 47, of Spring Vale, Prestwich, was convicted at a previous hearing and given six years in prison.
Alliance Ventures traded from an office in Bury New Road in Salford and later in Middleton, as did another of their companies, Prime Finance Ltd. Rashman played the leading role for Prime but retained his partnership with Alliance and was a co-signatory on the bank account, said Mr Turner.
The company invited approaches from foreign businessmen for plans or projects for which they required funding. Rashman and Montlake claimed that if they liked the idea, they would then provide or organise funding.
During the fraud Alliance Ventures received at least 275 requests involving millions of pounds, dollars and euros worth of business, most of them coming through brokers.
“Alliance was in the business of taking money from people dishonestly. Rashman and Montlake knew all the time that there was simply no money to lend — never had been, never would be — so whether their appraiser thought the project was a good one or not was completely irrelevant,” Mr Turner declared.
Although some bank records are missing it was apparent that just under £500,000 had gone into Rashman’s bank from Alliance.
Judge Gerald Clifton further remanded him on bail until June 9 for medical and pre-sentence reports. He is not allowed to travel outside the UK.