Man jailed after failing to recover clients' £25million missing savings
An alleged fraudster accused of ripping off hundreds of pensioners has been jailed after he failed to help former clients track down a missing £25million.
Hundreds of victims saw their savings disappear after the collapse of Steve Long’s Ipswich-based wealth ‘preservation’ business, the High Court heard.
They had been enticed into entrusting their money to his Universal Wealth Preservation Trust by claims it could avoid their heirs’ inheritance being swallowed by care home fees and the taxman.
No criminal charges have been brought, but he is now facing 27 damages claims from families amidst what lawyers say is “cogent evidence” of a “massive fraud”.
In breach of his duties as a trustee, Mr Long - of Arundel, Sussex - is accused of using clients’ money to prop up his businesses and transferring millions abroad, where they have disappeared.
Despite claiming now to have little more than the clothes on his back and a push bike, the 52-year-old is alleged to own valuable properties in Mexico.
As part of the claims, he was ordered to provide information to help track down the missing money so that his former clients can try to get it back.
And after failing to do all that he was ordered, he has now been jailed by Mrs Justice Rose for eight months for 29 contempts of court.
“The claimants want to know what has happened to the very substantial sums of money that they entrusted to Mr Long and his colleagues,” she said.
Mr Long ran several companies under the Universal Wealth umbrella, which held seminars at which potential clients were advised how to maximise their heirs’ inheritance.
The companies went under earlier this year and their base in Dencora House, Ipswich, where at one time 100 employees worked, now stands abandoned.
For the 27 claimants, barrister Oliver Hyam said there is “cogent evidence that Long has perpetrated a massive fraud against hundreds of victims”.
But for Mr Long, Vivienne Tanchel said Mr Long was not in breach of some of the orders because he did not know about them and because much of the information sought is in the hands of police.
He also suffers from mental health difficulties, having attempted suicide earlier this year, which might have caused “forgetfulness” about assets in Mexico, she told the judge.