Cornwall

Crown Currency Exchange scam trio jailed

Julian Benstead, Stephen Matthews Roderick Schmidt Image copyright Devon and Cornwall Police
Image caption Julian Benstead, Stephen Matthews and Roderick Schmidt were all jailed for between two and a half and five years

Three people involved in a multi-million pound foreign exchange scam have been jailed.

They included Crown Currency Exchange's ex-accountant Stephen Matthews, 52, of St Newlyn, Cornwall, who was jailed for four years for false accounting.

Manager Roderick Schmidt, 46, of Penzance, was jailed for five years for fraudulent trading.

They were sentenced at Southwark Crown Court after a three-month trial during which a defendant took his own life.

The Hayle firm went bust in October 2010, owing 12,500 clients a total of £20m.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Susan Benstead used £900,000 of customers' money to buy a luxury home in Cornwall
Image caption Crown Currency Exchange in Hayle collapsed in 2010 with debts of £20m
Image caption Crown Currency boss Peter Benstead killed himself while jurors were deliberating

The court heard Crown Currency Exchange used new customers' cash to pay off existing clients.

Susan Benstead, whose husband Peter, 72, killed himself during the trial, was given a two-year suspended jail term for money laundering.

The court heard she used £900,000 of customers' money to buy a luxury home in Cornwall.

Missing gold

Peter Benstead's son Julian, 46, of Penzance, ran Crown's sister company that specialised in trading cash for gold, and was jailed for two and a half years for fraudulent trading.

He was cleared of the theft of 25lb (11.3kg) of gold which went "missing" in the days leading up to the collapse of Crown Currency, a count on which his father was also charged. The gold has never been found.

Peter Benstead's body was discovered in a vehicle near his home in Penzance, Cornwall, on 3 May.

Judge Michael Gledhill QC said during sentencing that the evidence against Peter Benstead had been "overwhelming".

He said Benstead's suicide was "an easy way out of his predicament, without any regard to the consequences on either his loved ones or his victims".

Arthur Hanbidge, 74, from Liverpool, who lost £2,200, called the suspended sentence against Susan Benstead a "disgrace".

"I know she is grieving, but she lived the high life for years and should have been jailed as well," he said.

He called Julian Benstead's sentence a "farce".

"Some people have lost fortunes, two and a half years is not enough," he said.

Devon and Cornwall Police said it would now pursue the confiscation of the criminal's assets to compensate victims.

Former Crown director Edward James, the ex-mayor of Glastonbury in Somerset, was found not guilty of two counts of false accounting but convicted of two counts of fraudulent trading.

He was not sentenced as he faces a re-trial.

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