Thames Valley Police's Operation Hornet snares multi million pound fraudsters

A man and woman have been forced to repay more than 10 million, after being convicted in 2017 for their roles in a multi-million pound fraud.
A man and woman have been forced to repay more than 10 million, after being convicted in 2017 for their roles in a multi-million pound fraud.

A man and woman have been forced to repay more than £10 million, after being convicted in 2017 for their roles in a multi-million pound fraud.

David Mills, 62, and his wife Alison Mills, 54, were convicted alongside four others in 2017 for their roles in fraudulent trading, corrupting banking officials and money laundering.

They had been sentenced to a total of more than 18 years’ imprisonment following Operation Hornet, a six year investigation led by Thames Valley Police which uncovered their illicit activities. They defrauded struggling businesses out of huge sums of money to fund a lavish criminal lifestyle.

The confiscation order was made at Southwark Crown Court today (12/9) under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA). They have been ordered to repay money and assets valued at £10,451,949.54 which will include the seizure of luxury yachts and holiday properties.

The case for the confiscation order was led by specialist financial investigators from the South East Regional Organised Crime Unit (SEROCU). If the sums aren’t paid back within the next three months, they will each face additional prison terms of ten years (David) and nine years (Alison) added to their current sentences.

The pairs identified assets included:

Todenham House - £2.5 million

Wine collection - £100 thousand

UK Property portfolio – in excess of £1.2miilion

Foreign Properties – in excess £1 million

Yacht (Powder monkey) - £75 thousand

Share portfolio – in region of £1million

Pensions - £1.3 million

Company assets - £1.5 million

Between 2003 and 2007, David Mills, who described himself as a turn-around consultant, fronted a company that provided assistance to businesses that were in financial difficulty who had been referred to him by Lloyds Bank.

As well as the bank referral fees Mills levied hefty charges for services along with the others found guilty of the fraud in the case.

Instead of offering genuine assistance, they seized control of the failing firms and drained them of their assets, which were utilised by them to provide a lavish lifestyle.

Their gain through criminal activity was valued at £69,455,667.29.

Deputy Chief Constable Jason Hogg of Thames Valley Police, said: “I am incredibly pleased that these criminals continue to be confronted with measures to seize the gains from their substantial fraudulent activities to help guarantee they are appropriately punished.

“This group defrauded struggling businesses and gained significant sums of money, and lived a luxury lifestyle as a result of their fraudulent ways. It is vitally important that we use methods like this to ensure they are completely stripped of any remaining gains.”

Detective Inspector Tom Bradshaw, from SEROCU’s Economic Crime Capability, said: “We have a dedicated team of financial investigators who work tirelessly tackling criminals and their illegal profits.

“By continuing to target their assets we are ensuring that, not only are the offenders facing significant jail terms, but even when released they will not see the rewards of their criminal activity, which defrauded struggling companies of millions of pounds.

“This is a stark reminder to even the most fruitful criminals; not only will you be caught and brought before the courts, we will also seize any money and assets you’ve gained through criminal activity.”

Helen Hughes of the CPS, said: “David Mills is the epitome of a fraudster, taking advantage of people when they were in desperate need of help and bleeding them dry. They trusted him and he made matters even worse, using the last of their hard-earned money to buy extravagant trips abroad and luxury yachts.”

“David and Alison Mills profited from the downfall of others but now they must face the consequence of their greed and pay back more than £10million. While we cannot undo the harm they caused to so many through their parasitic plan, these confiscation orders will at least mean an end to the pair’s opulent lifestyle and provide some compensation to the victims of their crimes.”

The other key players in this crime were as follows:

On 30 January 2017 David Mills was convicted of Conspiracy to Corrupt, four counts of Fraudulent Trading and Conspiracy to Conceal Criminal Property (Money Laundering). On 2 February 2017 he was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment.

On 30 January 2017, Alison Mills was convicted of Conspiracy to Conceal Criminal Property (Money Laundering). On 2 February 2017 she was sentenced to three years and six months’ imprisonment.

On Monday 30 January 2017 Michael Bancroft was convicted of conspiracy to corrupt, three counts of Fraudulent Trading and one of Conspiracy to Conceal Criminal Property (Money Laundering). On 2 February 2017 he was sentenced to 10 years in prison. A Confiscation order is due at Southwark Crown Court on Monday 16 September.

On 2 February 2017, Lynden Scourfield, a former senior HBOS manager, was sentenced for offences of Conspiracy to Corrupt, four counts of Fraudulent Trading and Conspiracy to Conceal Criminal Property (Money Laundering). He was sentenced to 11 years and three months’ imprisonment after previously pleading guilty to all offences. His criminal benefit was assessed by the court as £681,494.68 and he was ordered to repay the sum of £131,332.92, which included the value of his pension.

On Monday 30 January 2017, Mark John Dobson, a former HBOS manager, was convicted of fraudulent trading and Conspiracy to Conceal Criminal Property. On 2 February 2017 he was sentenced to a term of five years and six months’ imprisonment. His criminal benefit was assessed by the court as £43,043.82 and he was ordered to repay the sum of £43,043.82.

On Monday 30 January 2017, John Anthony Cartwright was convicted of fraudulent trading and Conspiracy to Conceal Criminal Property (Money Laundering). On 2 February he was sentenced to three years and six months’ imprisonment. His criminal benefit was assessed by the court as £134,475.12 and he was ordered to repay £640.