A multi-millionaire fraudster is facing up to 20 years in a US jail after admitting ripping off thousands of investors in Britain's biggest "boiler room" scam.
Richard Pope, 53, funded a lifestyle of fast cars, yachts and private jets as his international gang pressurised pensioners over the phone into buying non-existent shares.
His crime empire made over £100 million as more than 2,300 victims were bullied into handing over life savings, detectives believe. One victim alone lost more than £800,000.
As Pope pleaded guilty to his part in the conspiracy at the Middle District of Florida District Court, British detectives condemned him for leaving a trail of victims destitute.
Detective Superintendent Bob Wishart, from the City of London Police's Economic Crime Directorate, led the investigation in partnership with US authorities.
"He and the guys who did this are on a par with some of the most ruthless villains out there," he said.
"(The victims) did not deserve what they have got, they thought they were going to be able to look after their families for years to come with this. But instead many of them have ended up divorced, homeless or have had to come out of retirement and get jobs."
Boiler room scams involve fraudsters using high pressure sales tactics to con investors into buying non-tradable, overpriced or even non-existent shares. They are thought to cost the UK around £200 million a year.
Pope spent two years on the run before his arrest, police said. The dishonestly earned money was siphoned off into US bank accounts and reinvested or spent by the fraudsters, Wishart said.
Pope was charged in March 2009 by US authorities along with six other defendants, including two other Britons - Paul Gunter and Simon Odoni. The other defendants are awaiting trial, US authorities said.