A finance executive based in Yorkshire has been found guilty of fraud and has been handed a seven-year prison sentence by Leeds Crown Court. Liam Francis Wainwright, 61, from Leeds, was found to have manipulated documents to deceive investors and diverted their funds towards various ventures, including a racehorse syndicate and his own failed businesses.

The Insolvency Service conducted an investigation into Wainwright’s activities and revealed that the investors had fallen victim to a classic Ponzi scheme, where the returns paid to them were funded by investments from subsequent investors.

Wainwright, who previously served as a director at Rawdon Asset Finance Ltd, had already faced disqualification for 11 years in November 2020. The Insolvency Service discovered that he had falsified approximately £12 million worth of entries in the company’s loan book in the two years leading up to its administration in 2019.

Following a thorough criminal investigation, the Insolvency Service pursued legal action against Wainwright on charges of false accounting, fraud, forgery, and acting as a director while bankrupt.

Julie Barnes, Chief Investigator for the Insolvency Service, expressed her dismay at Wainwright’s actions, stating, “Liam Wainwright’s greed and selfish actions had a devastating effect on the people who had put their trust in him and his business. His victims included elderly and vulnerable individuals, many of whom lost their life savings or significant portions of their investments. Today’s sentencing demonstrates that the Insolvency Service will relentlessly pursue the harshest penalties for those who violate the law, thereby ensuring the safety of investors and businesses across the UK.”

During the court proceedings, it was revealed that Wainwright had led a lavish lifestyle as a direct result of his fraudulent activities. His actions had an immense impact on the lives of individuals and families who had entrusted their money to his company.

Wainwright had falsely informed investors and shareholders that Rawdon Asset Finance was providing loans to businesses with secure collateral in the form of property, land, or equipment. However, he had misappropriated the funds to pay off other creditors, invest in a racehorse syndicate, and support his other businesses, including a property development company in Lincolnshire and a redevelopment company in West Yorkshire, both of which were linked to him.

At the time of the company’s liquidation, Rawdon Asset Finance owed its creditors over £20 million. So far, liquidators have managed to recover £750,630.

Wainwright confessed that he began manipulating accounts in 2017 to hide the true financial state of the company from his co-directors and investors. He also admitted to forging a mortgagor’s signature on a legal document to mislead investors. Furthermore, he had violated the terms of a previous bankruptcy by acting as a director of the company without the court’s permission from April 2010 to April 2011.

The court heard that Wainwright had deceived an investor into contributing £100,000 to the company shortly before its collapse, knowing full well that the investor would never recoup their funds.

Wainwright entered a guilty plea on February 20, 2023, at Kirklees Magistrates’ Court. The sentencing took place at Leeds Crown Court on June 9, 2023, presided over by His Honour Judge Bayliss. The Judge handed down concurrent sentences for all charges, except for the fraud committed against the final investor, which was added consecutively to reflect Wainwright’s increasing level of culpability.