Insolvency Service
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Five sentenced in £500,000 bank fraud and money laundering scheme

Insolvency Service secures convictions against five individuals involved in a complex fraud and money laundering scheme.

  • Convicted fraudster Neale Rothera set up businesses which claimed to sell furniture and carpets with the help of associates 
  • However, the companies were a sham and used as a vehicle to both commit fraud against banks and money laundering 
  • The offences, which happened in 2012 and 2013, came to court after lengthy investigations by the Insolvency Service 

Five people have been sentenced for their involvement in a “persistent and carefully prepared” fraud and money laundering scheme which cost banks more than half a million pounds. 

Ringleader and convicted fraudster Neale Rothera, 49, was jailed for six years and four months when he appeared at Leicester Crown Court for sentencing on Tuesday 19 March. 

All four companies Rothera helped establish claimed to be in the business of selling carpets and furniture in the Leicestershire area. However, investigations by the Insolvency Service revealed all the companies, and most of the associated invoices, were in large part a sham.   

Rothera’s accomplices Simon Wakefield, Frederick Penn, Shona Walters, and Laura Perkins were all sentenced at the same hearing. 

Mark Stephens, Chief Investigator at the Insolvency Service, said: 

This has been an extremely complex investigation taking place over a number of years into a very sophisticated, persistent, and carefully planned fraud. 

Neale Rothera was the common theme throughout, devising the schemes and orchestrating their implementation. 

Rothera was ably assisted by the others who fronted the companies or helped him launder the fraudulently obtained funds while he acted as a shadow director. None of the individuals involved were exploited or coerced into taking part in this criminal behaviour and we hope these sentences serve a warning to those considering such fraudulent actions.

The fraud in this case centred around so-called ‘invoice factoring agreements’ between financial services institutions and four companies: Thistle Interiors Ltd, Sorrel Trading Ltd, Wakefield Trading Ltd, and Penn Interiors Ltd. 

Invoice factoring is a legitimate type of finance which allow businesses to access the money tied up in unpaid invoices from banks, instead of having to wait 30-90 days to be paid by their customers. 

But investigations by the Insolvency Service revealed many of the customers Rothera’s companies claimed to deal with either did not exist or they had not traded with them in the manner suggested by the invoices. 

The scheme was the brainchild of Rothera, who was previously convicted of fraud in 2011.  

A total of £562,901.64 was ultimately never recovered by the banks. 

Rothera was unable to put himself forward as a company director, as no bank would enter into a credit agreement with him. 

He therefore enlisted the help of Walters, Wakefield and Penn who became the sole directors of Thistle Interiors Ltd, Wakefield Trading Ltd, and Penn Interiors Ltd, and acted upon Rothera’s behalf. 

Walters, Wakefield and Penn played a willing and active role in dishonestly helping secure the factoring agreements for the companies and in obtaining the money from the banks. 

They all also maintained the lie that Rothera was actually called Neil Franklin as part of the deception. 

Once the credit had been successfully secured, the funds were either withdrawn in cash by each of the defendants or transferred into other accounts. 

Rothera used money from this fraud towards compensation he was ordered to pay after being convicted of another fraud offence in Scotland. He was sentenced at Elgin Sherriff Court in April 2012 after conning people out of thousands of pounds by fraudulently selling caravans at a holiday park in Moray. 

Wakefield withdrew £235,340 of the fraudulently obtained funds on Rothera’s behalf during a two-month period in July and August 2012. 

When interviewed by Insolvency Service investigators, Wakefield said that Rothera in return had paid for his car, gave him free meals, and provided free drink for him and his family. 

Sentences 

All five defendants were sentenced at Leicester Crown Court on Tuesday 19 March 2024. 

Neale Rothera, 49, formerly of Station Road, Quorn, Leicestershire pleaded guilty to four counts of fraud by false representation and one count of money laundering in June 2022. 

He was jailed for six years and four months and disqualified as a company director for nine years. 

Shona Walters, 54, of Church Street, Lossiemouth, Moray, pleaded guilty to one count of fraud by false representation and one count of money laundering on the first day the trial was due to start in January 2024. 

She was sentenced to 19 months in prison, suspended for two years, 20 days rehabilitation activity, and 140 hours of unpaid work. 

Simon Wakefield, 53, of St Mary’s Crescent, East Leake, Nottinghamshire, pleaded guilty to one count of fraud by false representation and one count of money laundering in July 2022. 

He was sentenced to 22 months in prison, suspended for two years, 10 days rehabilitation activity, and 175 hours of unpaid work. 

Frederick Penn, 76, of Roughlands Drive, Carronshore, Falkirk, also pleaded guilty to one count of fraud and one count of money laundering on the first day of the trial in January 2024. 

He was sentenced to 19 months in prison, suspended for two years, 20 days rehabilitation activity, and 140 hours of unpaid work. 

Laura Perkins, 31, of Mundy Close, Burton on the Wolds, Leicestershire, also pleaded guilty to one count of money laundering in October 2020. 

Perkins, a bar manager who worked for Rothera, was handed an 18-month community order and ordered to complete 50 hours of unpaid work. 

A decision was made not to prosecute the director of Sorrel Trading Ltd due to insufficient evidence. 

Further information about the work of the Insolvency Service, and how to complain about financial misconduct.

Channel website: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/insolvency-service

Original article link: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/five-sentenced-in-500000-bank-fraud-and-money-laundering-scheme

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