Six men jailed in Britain over "predatory" solar energy panel scam

LONDON (Reuters) - Six fraudsters were jailed in Britain on Tuesday for orchestrating a 17 million pound scam to sell and install solar energy panels, often targeting vulnerable people.

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) said it had brought the men to trial after the ringleaders - two brothers and former directors of Solar Energy Savings Limited - were caught during a routine police traffic stop after seven months on the run.

The men manipulated their victims with deceitful sales techniques, lies and false guarantees of reimbursement to misrepresent their deals and maximise sales. Around 1,500 victims lost up to 20,000 pounds each, the SFO said.

The men paid themselves almost two million pounds and drove Lamborghini and Porsche sports cars, had cosmetic surgery and took private flights to Switzerland and Italy.

They offered their victims a cashback scheme that falsely guaranteed that their costs would be invested and returned in a number of years. But in reality, the cash was transferred between a string of businesses in a scam so crude that investigators said the names of companies had been manually crossed out on certificates.

Ludovic Black, David Diaz, Steve Wilson, Robert Ross, Niall Hastie and Kenneth Reid received sentences of between three-and-a-half and seven-and-a-half years each.

“These men built predatory schemes to steal thousands from the hard-earned savings of vulnerable people while pretending to offer them a chance to improve their own financial security,” said SFO director Lisa Osofsky.

Reporting by Kirstin Ridley; Editing by Peter Graff