A group of fraudsters who conned vulnerable victims out of nearly £1 million whilst pretended to be fine-wine brokers have been jailed.

The men were sentenced at Southwark Crown Court on Friday, April 5 and sentenced for a total of 17 years’ and nine months.

After being found guilty of conspiracy to defraud and money laundering, the following sentences were sent out:

Barry Warner, 38, from Theydon Bois, was sentenced to five-and-a-half years’ imprisonment.

Tarik Drissi, 35, from Harlow, was jailed to three years’ imprisonment.

Adam Edwards, 37, from Clavering, Hertfordshire, was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment and a five-year Directors Disqualification Order.

DC Tony Rundle, who led the investigation, said: “This group of fraudsters targeted vulnerable people across the United Kingdom, scamming them out of huge sums of money for their own financial gain.

“Our officers carried out a meticulous investigation and I am pleased the gang will now face justice for their calculated actions which ruined the lives of many victims.”

Two of the co-conspirators pleaded guilty to the same offences in June and December 2018 and were sentenced alongside their counterparts who stood trial.

Christopher Brummit, 36, from Ugley, Bishop Stortford, was sentenced in his absence to three years and three months’ imprisonment, plus a five-year Directors Disqualification Order.

Officers are appealing to the public to help trace Brummit who was last seen in October 2018 in London and a warrant has been issued for this arrest.

James Brooks, 34, from Takeley, Bishop Stortford, was sentenced to 20 months’ imprisonment - suspended for two years - and ordered to complete 300 hours of unpaid work.

The court heard how between 2013 and 2015, more than 50 people were cold-called by expert brokers in fine wine operating outside of Great Dunmow.

They claimed to work for three companies call their victims repeatedly and persuade them to sell their holding or invest in fine wines.

On some occasions the victims were told their wines would be exchanged for graphene or diamonds that did not exist.

The victims would transfer their wines hoping to receive their agreed payments within 28 days, however none of the victims ever received this promised money.

Detective Sergeant Michael Pannell from Essex Police added: “These defendants were audacious and confident enough to think the use of fake names would prevent them from being caught. However, thanks to the thorough police investigation, they were proved wrong.”