Wilmslow man jailed for £22 million pension fraud


A Wilmslow man, along with another from Bromsgrove, devised a complex plan to persuade hundreds of pension holders to transfer their pensions into Self-Invested Personal Pension (SIPPS) and then used the money for their own financial gain.

Detective Superintendent John Roch, Head of the Met's Economic Crime, said: "Both men put their own financial gain over the interest of over 250 victims, losing their money and leaving some in financial ruin, whilst earning lucrative sums themselves.

"I would ask anyone who is contacted by a cold caller about an investment to be vigilant. Please consider getting independent professional advice before making a significant financial decision."

Mark Kelly, 51, from Wilmslow and Rikki Nicholls, 57 of Bromsgrove were sentenced at Southwark Crown Court on Friday, 15th July after being found guilty following a five-month trial at the same court in April 2022. They were convicted of conspiracy to commit fraud and transferring criminal property and both sentenced to six years' imprisonment.

Detectives from the Met's Central Specialist Crime Command's Economic Crime teams commenced an investigation in 2011 following a referral from the Financial Services Authority now the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) of criminal misconduct, from multiple sources. The Economic Crime team sits under Specialist Crime and investigates serious and complex financial crime, fraud and money laundering.

Detectives traced and made contact with over 250 victims from across the country, making enquiries with multiple agencies, resulting in excess of 10,000 documents and exhibits.

The court heard how Mark Kelly and Rikki Nicholls set up and ran a scheme named 'PCD Wealth & Pension Management' (PCD) in 2007. The business was aimed at transferring clients' pensions to investment funds for growth.

Nicholls was a former employee of a legitimate insurance company Equitable Life. He had obtained details of existing customers who they then cold called and convinced pension holders to transfer their pensions into a SIPP controlled by their scheme.

In fact, Kelly and Nicholls directed the transfers of their victims' pension monies to investment funds which were lucrative to themselves, via high commission payments.

They used mostly unqualified, unauthorised people to meet with the victims to complete the necessary paperwork to transfer their money. Certain sections of the forms were left blank enabling Kelly and Nicholls to later complete – adding in fees which had not been agreed, which came from the values of the pensions, enabling them to gain greater commissions. They changed the correspondence address to a PO Box which they controlled, allowing them to have full control of the flow of information to the investor.

Between August 2008 and May 2010 they placed customers' pensions into SIPPs which were administered by specialist SIPP advisors from Hornbuckle Mitchell.

PCD was not regulated to conduct pension business in the UK. PCD was not an official entity, it had no legal status and was no more than a trading name. They placed funds in unsuitable and high risked investments which were not suitable for pension funds.

Most victims lost anything from £10,000 to £200,000 of their pensions.

Denis Mountford, from Birmingham, who was defrauded by the men, said:"When I first discovered that my pension fund was rapidly diminishing and inaccessible, I was very cross with myself for trusting poor financial advisors who had taken a high percentage commission and also I was disgusted with them.

"I don't know how one can tell if a financial advisor is totally trustworthy, except by recommendations from people you can trust and I hope that this case will be a warning to others.

"During this time, legal and investigating officers have been very helpful and considerate and have given me confidence in legal proceedings."

Detective Superintendent John Roch, said: "Many of the victims are vulnerable by age and financial position, and as a result of the actions of these men, they have been left in severe financial difficulties. Many must continue to work in order to fund their retirement, or retire with a lesser pension, or even without a pension. These man have caused so much distress and anxiety to them.

"I would like to applaud the victims for their help with this investigation and thank those who gave evidence in court.

"The detectives who worked on this case have distinct areas of expertise and it is with thanks to their years of hard work and dedication we have achieved today's result. I would like to pay tribute to the tenacity, expertise and professionalism of my staff that has resulted in these convictions."

On Wednesday,16 April 2014 Kelly was arrested for fraud. Nicholls voluntarily returned from his residence in Dubai and on Wednesday, 14 May 2014 he was interviewed under caution. Enquiries and statements were completed nationally and internationally by the team.

The case was reviewed by the Crown Prosecution Service in 2016 and a charging decision was delayed due to the volume of unused material to be reviewed and outstanding international enquiries.

On Monday, 6 July 2020 Kelly and Nicholls were charged with conspiracy to defraud and money laundering. They entered not guilty pleas at Westminster Magistrates' Court on Monday, 17 August 2020. The matter was sent to Southwark Crown court for trial commencing Monday, 8 November 2021.

Over 3,000 documents have been reviewed for disclosure and in excess of 2,000 scheduled under Criminal Investigations Act Code of Practice. 193 witness statements were served.

A confiscation investigation will follow convictions, where assets are sought in favour of returning some of the losses to the victims.