A former financial adviser has denied forging clients’ signatures from across Derbyshire and South Yorkshire so he could invest thousands of pounds of their money into a high risk fund for his own benefit.
Derby Crown Court heard on Monday, May 15, during the beginning of a six-week trial how Martin Rigney, 67, formerly of Great Hucklow, near Buxton, allegedly committed 22 counts of forgery involving tens of thousands of pounds of clients’ cash which was lost after it was invested into a fund which was suspended.
Prosecuting barrister Martin Hurst said: “We say he had been routinely forging his client’s signatures. Clients will be saying, ‘I did not sign that’, ‘I cannot remember signing that’, and ‘it is not my signature’, and experts will argue it’s a forgery.”
Mr Rigney used to trade under Topps Rogers Financial Management and his clients were generally retired, old and some have since died and their funds were invested in the Poland Geared Growth Property Fund - known as the Polish Fund.
Clients were originally advised to invest via Royal Skandia bonds with a safe, non-risky spread of investments in various funds before Mr Rigney allegedly forged signatures and switched investments to the Polish Fund.
Mr Hurst explained this was an investment into the Polish property market but he stressed it was an Unregulated Collected Investment Scheme and it was unsuitable for the vast majority of Mr Rigney’s clients who required safe, non-risk investments to help pay school fees, nursing homes or to provide money to live on.
Mr Hurst said this kind of product could only be marketed to high-net worth individuals and was completely unsuitable for Mr Rigney’s clients.
He claimed money originally placed into a Royal Skandia bond and then into the Curzon Capital Investment Poland Geared Growth Fund yielded £371,149 as Mr Rigney’s commission income for advising people to go into the Polish Fund.
But the Polish Fund was suspended in 2008 and no one could get their money out and they lost their cash, according to Mr Hurst.
Mr Hurst said: “Mr Rigney was not concerned about getting clients to sign documents and he would sign them on their behalf. Signing them or forging their signatures on letters telling him what to do or on documents about knowing your client.”
He added: “The reason, the prosecution, say he was forging clients’ signatures was to hide from them what he was doing.
“Many of the people in this trial had no idea their money was being invested into Polish property and if they had known it was unregulated and how risky it was they would not have touched it with a barge pole.
“He fobbed them off with stories about how much the fund would be worth and it would all be all right in the end.”
The court heard how the 22 charges of forgery related to individuals or couples from Derbyshire, north Derbyshire and South Yorkshire including the below complainants.
Mr Rigney allegedly forged the signature of a dementia sufferer Mary Dawson, of Rotherham, and her daughter who had power of attorney so he could allegedly invest £76,000 of their money into the Polish Fund when the daughter had been planning to use their investment to cover her now deceased mother’s nursing home costs.
Client Elaine Beresford, of Buxton, also claimed her signature was forged and she had no knowledge of ever agreeing to invest £70,000 into the Polish Fund.
Frederick and Joan Davy also claimed to have had £220,000 switched to the Polish Fund without their knowledge and with forged signatures.
Further clients Paul and Deborah Gregory, who emigrated to Australia, had the vast bulk of their £400,000 investment moved into the Polish Fund with sustained forged signatures and they claim they were never consulted.
Client Edward Hooton had £300,000 invested in the Polish Fund with alleged forged signatures and much of it was lost after he had stated he did not want a risky investment.
Peter Keen queried how £80,000 of his money had been relocated into the Polish Fund with alleged forged signatures, according to Mr Hurst, and Mr Rigney allegedly apologised.
Nitin and Shipla Kohle had approached Mr Rigney to help with a £120,000 investment to support school fees with money from a re-mortgaged property but they ended up with 70per cent of the money in the Polish Fund with an alleged forged signature.
The court heard how the Polish Fund has been suspended since 2008 and no one could get their money out and they have lost large amounts.
Mr Rigney, of King Edwards, Rivelin Valley, Sheffield, has denied 22 counts of forgery from between 2006 and 2008.
The trial continues.