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Home Sittingbourne News Article
A compulsive gambler swindled clients out of more than £750,000 by luring them in with offers of meeting Formula 1 stars, football players and even the chance to stay on a super-yacht owned by motorsport tycoon Eddie Jordan.
James Maxwell, who has now been jailed for more than three years, even told investors his young son had been diagnosed with cancer in a bid to con them into parting with their cash.
Maxwell, 41, ran three Sittingbourne-based sports memorabilia and hospitality companies.
But, as the fraud spiralled, he began to spin a staggering web of lies in order to persuade wealthy clients and charities to hand over cash.
The businessman, formerly of Leigh Road, Sittingbourne, was involved with three businesses selling sports memorabilia in the town - The Autograph Store in High Street, Sports Idols on St George’s Business Park, and Premier Signings and Hospitality Ltd, registered at Velum Drive. None of the three businesses is still going.
One way he managed to get hold of clients' cash was, from 2009, asking them to transfer cash into his business account - but given his own personal bank details
He also claimed to be one of his colleagues, without their knowledge, and made up other aliases to protect his own reputation and convince clients they were dealing with a larger company.
Maxwell, who moved to Horsham in Sussex, had set up another company, Premier Signings and Hospitality, in early 2011.
He auctioned off a multitude of packages at charity auctions and other events for some of the most famous sports events in the world, including the Monaco and British Grands Prix.
He lured customers into handing over tens of thousands of pounds for dream encounters with sports stars including Formula One drivers and football players, and accommodation on a super-yacht owned by motorsport tycoon Eddie Jordan.
Maxwell claimed he could offer them at cost price because he had ‘connections’ with the celebrities, telling them: "It’s not what you know in this business, it’s who."
However, Maxwell had never met any of the famous people he was offering as part of the deals.
He offered these packages - including flights and accommodation at five-star hotels or yachts - at incredible knock-down prices.
Many would then be told days before that the yacht had been double-booked or the deal had been cancelled, only for Maxwell to promise to invest their money into another package, which never materialised.
As clients grew suspicious they began to do their own research. They then found the incredible deal they had signed up for would cost so much more in real life than the prices Maxwell was offering were completely unrealistic.
When challenged, Maxwell would recite a litany of lies, claiming over and over again to a number of different people at different times that his father had just died.
He also claimed to have been diagnosed with testicular cancer and told one client he was struggling to keep his finances straight as his young son had just been diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer.
He would promise refunds and repeatedly insist he had made bank transfers, which investigators later proved never left his account, or write cheques for huge amounts that would immediately bounce.
Maxwell also defrauded investors in a Spanish property scheme and began offering clients cut-price luxury package holidays to New York and St Lucia, leaving them puzzled and furious when they discovered he had never so much as booked them on a single flight after taking their money.
Officers from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate spent months following Maxwell’s messy paper trail and analysing financial accounts to find he used most of the vast sums of money given to him in good faith on gambling, sometimes spending up to thousands of pounds in a single day.
He also paid out on a number of luxury holidays for his family.
On January 14 last year, Maxwell was charged with 17 counts of fraudulent activity.
He later pleaded guilty to 17 fraud charges, with 37 other offences taken into account.
Now he has been jailed at Maidstone Crown Court to three years and four months, and also disqualified from holding any Limited company position for 10 years.
Investigating officer, DC Steve Payne from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, said: "This was a huge investigation into what turned out to be a staggering web of lies spun by Maxwell in a desperate attempt to keep his gambling habit afloat.
"He betrayed dozens of people with his fraud when it emerged the deals he was offering were simply too good to be true.
"This was a huge investigation into what turned out to be a staggering web of lies spun by Maxwell in a desperate attempt to keep his gambling habit afloat" - DC Steve Payne
"He was also a traitor to his clients, whom he manipulated into loaning him money and investing in the businesses he was involved with as silent partners.
"Maxwell preyed on people’s hopes and dreams.
"He would offer dazzling hospitality packages, promising this, that and the other, to sports fans willing to pay vast sums of money to meet their heroes and watch these huge sports events in the lap of luxury.
"None of these packages ever materialised. His victims were left confused and embarrassed, but more than that, they were left out of pocket after promising their hard-earned cash to this swindler."
He said Maxwell's account went from "dizzying highs" to lows in just days as he would take his clients' cash and gamble it away.
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