Neil Bartlett, based in Southport, used £4.5m of his victims’ money to fund an “extravagant lifestyle of foreign travel, top hotels and gambling,” according to Merseyside Police.
He pleaded guilty to 14 counts of fraud at Liverpool Crown Court and has asked for 14 further fraud offences to be taken into consideration.
Friends and family among victims
The Police said there were 24 victims, and the fraud started in approximately 2013 and continued for five years.
In 2018, he reportedly “took over £740,000 from friends he had known since school, together with his friend’s parents and his own family”.
He also “took advantage of being the Power of Attorney for a vulnerable elderly victim and defrauded her”.
He left the UK last year for Russia, where he was living the high life in top hotels, foreign travel and gambling on the stock market.
He was arrested after flying back into Manchester Airport on 27 November 2018.
Detective Sergeant Christopher Hawitt said: “We welcome the sentencing of Neil Bartlett and hope that he will now spend the considerable future thinking about the consequences of his actions.
“It is never nice for anyone to fall victim to fraud but this was a particularly unpleasant case for Bartlett’s victims as some of them had known him for over 50 years and so trusted him with, in some cases, their life savings.
“Bartlett thought of nobody but himself and furnishing his excessive lifestyle with the money he took from those who trusted him most.
“They are now forced to pick up the pieces of their lives but many have been left without the financial nest egg which was rightfully theirs and which they worked for many years to earn. In fact, some of his victims, who have worked all their lives, are faced with the prospect of having to return to work.”
In 2018, Merseyside Police received a number of reports from Action Fraud (the National Fraud & Cyber Crime Reporting Centre) about Bartlett’s business practices and a fraud investigation began.
The fraud involved “investing people’s money, pensions and often life savings into what they thought was a safe investment account with interest”.
It emerged that “Bartlett had created a sole trader account with the same name as the company he worked for and paid himself the money”.
Hawitt added: “I would like to reassure the public that reports of any kind of fraud are taken extremely seriously and will be thoroughly investigated.
“If someone believes they have fallen victim to any kind of fraud then I would urge them to contact Action Fraud via their website www.actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 101 or the confidential Crimestoppers line on 0800 555 111.”