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26 March 2013, 15:33
A man from Ipswich has been jailed after conning friends out millions of pounds to fund his luxury lifestyle.
Married father-of-two Ian Dickinson, of Nacton Road, Ipswich, conned lifelong friends and colleagues out of their savings with promises of huge returns.
The former Frinton Rotary Club president was a respected member of the Essex seaside town's social set and used this status to gain trust, Chelmsford Crown Court heard.
Prosecutor Rakesh Somaia said: "The reality was that between 2005 and 2010 he was running what was effectively a Ponzi scheme.
"He used the proceeds to fund a luxury lifestyle, a large house, cars and private education for his children.''
The 50-year-old, who ran his business FX Trading from his former home in Fourth Avenue, Frinton, pleaded guilty to two fraud offences at an earlier hearing.
His Ponzi scheme involved promising returns to investors by trading in foreign investments while in fact using the money for his own benefit.
Over five years he received total investments of more than £11 million from 113 victims. The vast majority lost some or all of their money as less than £8 million of this was returned. Victims included fellow rotary members and golf, cricket and tennis club friends.
"His membership of the rotary club in particular was a sign to many investors that he could be trusted,'' Mr Somaia said.
"His charity work for the rotary club added to the impression he was a trustworthy individual.''
Mr Somaia said that many raided their "nest eggs'' to invest in the scheme. Some used their entire life savings, cashed in pension funds or remortgaged their homes, he added.
One victim, Sylvia Baines, who the court heard had been a family friend of 30 years, lost £15,000.
The biggest single loss to a victim was £188,000.
Passing sentence, Judge David Turner said that the fraud involved "alarming'' sums of money.
"Your conduct has left an appalling legacy of stress, anxiety, sleeplessness, depression and huge financial hardship,'' he added.
"What you were involved in was a shameful scam, playing on the trust and admiration others had for you.''
Gavin Holme, mitigating, described Dickinson as a "well-thought of individual whose vanity took hold''.
He added: "He is fully aware of the impact this has had on the community and those who lost money.''
Mr Holme added his client had raised large amounts for local and national charities, including a cardiac unit at a children's hospital.
Dickinson worked as a foreign exchange broker in London during the 1980s and later joined a Chelmsford-based consortium of investors, initially trading with his own money.
He declared himself bankrupt in December 2010.
Shortly before that he tried to kill himself and told paramedics: "I have big financial issues and it was better for everyone that I just die,'' the court heard.
Dickinson pleaded guilty to participating in a fraudulent business carried out by a sole trader and another count of not being authorised in relation to a regulated activity.
The offences began in 2005 and continued until November, 2010.
After his 2011 arrest, neighbours spoke of their shock and compared him to disgraced Wall Street financier Madoff.