A businessman who swindled £2.3m from friends in a complex scam involving top Premier League football clubs has been jailed for six years.
Jeremy Sherwin, 46, initially ran a legitimate business buying unsold advertising space at top flight football clubs and other sports grounds and selling it on at a profit. Investors lent him money and were then repaid with interest when the space was sold, Preston Crown Court heard.
But when the market slowed, Sherwin’s intricate fraud began.
He carried on asking people for cash – as he struggled with repayments, he borrowed more money from other investors.
More than 20 football clubs, rugby and cricket teams were used in the elaborate con. All eventually gave statements to police about Sherwin’s activities.
Among them were Newcastle United, Swansea City, West Bromwich Albion and Southampton, Sussex County Cricket Club and rugby league club Warrington Wolves.
At one point, he presented a letter to an investor from a club saying cash had changed hands – which the club later said it had no knowledge of.
But when the market slowed, Sherwin continued to approach people for investment. And when he began struggling to make re-payments, he borrowed more money from other investors in what Mr Andrew West, prosecuting, said was known as a ‘Ponzi’ scheme. Sherwin traded under the names JM and JP Sherwin and Diamond Signs, and 22 football, rugby and cricket clubs eventually gave statements to police about Sherwin’s activities between November 2003 and February 2011. They included Premier League clubs Newcastle United, Swansea City, West Bromwich Albion and Southampton, Sussex County Cricket Club and rugby league club
Some of the instances included claims about loans and investments in clubs, including Castleford Tigers and Brentford Football Club, which later confirmed they had never had dealings with Sherwin, who traded under different companies, Andrew West, prosecuting, said.
But bizarrely, the court heard Sherwin, who lives in a large detached house on Holmefield Road, Cleveleys, known locally as ‘Millionaires Row’, may have become distracted from the fruadulent business as he became obsessed with commissioning a TV game show.
Production bosses were sufficiently impressed with his ideas and £250,000 was ploughed into a pilot edition of Spin To Win which was hosted by TV personality Philip Schofield and screened in September 2007.
One of the contestants was David Turner, one of the seven victims, who invested nearly £1.8m in his friend’s schemes, including nearly £1m in a similar Australian company, and lost more than £1.3m.
Mr West said Sherwin’s lies caught up with him in February 2011 when he came clean to his family in a text message, which said he wouldn’t be returning home, and fled abroad.
Days later, his friends and business associates realised they hadn’t been paid.
Of the other investors, Stephen Butterfield lost £722,108, John Walker lost £209,699, Roger Smith £81,956, Gary Fretwell £35,450, Daniel Rees £11,250 and Rad Davies £950.
More than £2.3m was lost in total – without taking into account any of the promised interest.
Mr West said of Sherwin: “He made some repayments to his investors to maintain the illusion that his schemes were successful and to encourage further investment whereas in reality he was borrowing money from one person to pay off a debt to another person. These debts spiralled out of control.”
One of the investors, Stephen Butterfield, was shown a letter by Sherwin from Northampton Town FC which said he was loaning them £200,000. But the club later said the letter, dated April 2010, was nothing to do with them.
Mr Richard Simons, defending, said witnesses had described how Sherwin’s “head had been turned” by his game show dream.
He said Sherwin had returned to the UK and arranged to be interviewed by police of his own accord.
Sherwin said of the show in police interview: “You put your money in and you’re that close it’s hard to fall on your sword because everything you dreamed of is just there.”
Despite admitting the offences, Sherwin had denied the seven charges of fraud and three charges of obtaining a credit balance by deception at a previous hearing.
But he changed his pleas, and Mr Simons said the not guilty pleas had only been entered because he had not wanted to upset his daughter, who was about to sit her final university exams at the time.
Judge Christopher Cornwall, said the amounts were “off the scale” when it came to the sentencing guidelines, which considered sums in excess of £500,000.
He told Sherwin: “You lied and lied and lied to these individuals who trusted you.”