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IFA jailed for forging signatures

A former financial adviser who was found guilty of forging clients’ signatures to invest their cash into a high-risk fund that later went bankrupt has been sentenced to seven years in prison.

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Following a 10-week trial that ended in July, Martin Rigney, 68, was found guilty of committing 16 counts of forgery involving tens of thousands of pounds of clients’ cash, which was lost after it was invested in an unregulated collective investment scheme (Ucis).

He was found not guilty on a further six counts.

The original 22 charges of forgery from between 2006 and 2008 related to people from Derbyshire and South Yorkshire.

Many were elderly and invested money as part of plans to secure life savings or for nursing home and school fees, according to the prosecuting barrister Martin Hurst.

The Derby Crown Court heard how clients were originally advised to invest via Royal Skandia bonds with a safe spread of investments in various funds before Rigney forged their signatures and switched investments into the Curzon Capital Investment Poland Geared Growth Fund, a Polish property fund which then collapsed.

Hurst stressed that such investment was unsuitable for the majority of Rigney’s clients who required safe, non-risk investments.

He also claimed Rigney retained £371,149 ($489,763, €407,122) as commission income for advising people to go into the Polish fund.

“Abhorrent abuses”

According to local newspaper Derbyshire Times, detective constable Julie Wheeldon, who led the investigation, said: “Martin Rigney committed abhorrent abuses of trust against his clients, who were consequently caused financial difficulty and emotional distress. Our thorough and lengthy investigation demonstrates how seriously we take this kind of offence.”

Wheeldon added that the passing of a seven-year sentence “provides a significant deterrent to others considering defrauding clients”.

The investigation

The case came to the attention of the authorities in June 2012 following an investigation by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) into Rigney and his company, Derbyshire-based advisory firm Topps Rogers Financial Management.

Rigney was found to have forged documents by either signing paperwork himself or by photocopying the genuine signature of his clients after a “long and complex investigation” by the Derbyshire police.

However, during the investigation, the former IFA told police that due to the unstable nature of the stock market he was asked to move money and put it into bricks and mortar and that was why he invested clients’ money into Curzon Capital and the Polish fund, which was suspended in 2008.

Many of the people in the trial had no idea their money was being invested into Polish property.

At a hearing in May where the banned adviser denied forging clients’ signatures, Derby Crown Court heard how Rigney forged the signatures of dementia sufferer Mary Dawson and her daughter, who had power of attorney, so he could allegedly invest £76,000 of their money into the Polish fund.

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