A stockbroker who funded a jet-set lifestyle by stealing his clients’ money has been jailed for six years.
James Bufton, 26, stole more than £250,000 from eight victims – including a dying man, close friends and his own family – and spent it on his gambling addiction, hotel stays and helicopter flights to the Cheltenham races.
When they demanded their money back and he started receiving threats, Bufton attempted to defraud HM Revenue & Customs of almost £1.3 million to meet his spiralling debts.
Newport Crown Court heard that Bufton, who ran two finance companies, sweet-talked his victims with promises of high returns if they invested in non-existent stocks and shares.
Timothy Evans, prosecuting, said that when the financial returns failed to materialise, Bufton would “rob Peter to pay Paul”.
He spun them a web of lies, including claiming he had a brain tumour.
Over a five-year period, Bufton defrauded them of £253,000, the court heard.
He then switched to defrauding HMRC and used the two companies he ran to reclaim VAT totalling £1.26 million, of which he received £795,000.
Mr Evans described Bufton as a “conman” who told a “cacophony of lies”.
“It seems to have made no difference to him whether these were close family, a dying man, a grieving widow, a family friend, his girlfriend’s parents, a businessman or someone he just happened to meet in a club,” he said.
“They were all fair game. He took their money and spent it down the drain.”
One victim, a businessman, said in a statement: “He presented himself as a successful stockbroker and he impressed me with his knowledge of stock market trading.
“He gave me the confidence to hand over the last amount of money I had. James Bufton betrayed my trust to maintain his own lifestyle and manage his own spiralling debt.
“Now I know the debts went to feed his greed, and the many others that have fallen victim to his lies and deceit. Part of me is glad he will spend time in prison, the other part of me feels very sorry for him.”
Another victim, who had been diagnosed with cancer, was unable to pay for private treatment.
“When James Bufton took control of my £20,000, he started to spin me a web of lies and deceit and intended to deceive me at every turn,” they said.
“What makes things worse was the money was not used to get himself out of trouble but instead went on one big jolly at my expense.
“As long as I live, I will never forgive him for the way he has deceived me.
“James Bufton is the lowest form of human being, not caring in the slightest the distress and damage he inflicts on people with his desire to live the high life at whatever cost to other people.
“He is a lazy, uncaring conman and I hope his sentence reflects the time it took me to save that money.”
At a previous hearing, Bufton, of Downing Street, Newport, Gwent, admitted 20 offences, including fraud by abuse of position, fraud by false representation, possession of articles for use in fraud, money laundering and VAT fraud.
Anwar Nashishibi, defending, said: “Mr Bufton has not shirked any responsibility and he knows his own real mitigation is that he says sorry and has pleaded guilty.
“He knows the real reason it happened was because he was greedy and dishonest.”
Passing sentence, Judge Daniel Williams told Bufton: “You certainly sought to portray yourself as a successful and trustworthy investor with a lifestyle to match your glittering success.
“You were in a position of trust and those that trusted you to invest their hard-earned savings ranged from members of your close family, to friends, as well as clients.
“There is no depth that you were not prepared to stoop. The currencies in which you traded were lies, false promises, and evasion.
“You promised to put your victims’ monies into fail-safe investments. In reality, you squandered their money.
“You consumed much of it on conspicuous displays of wealth and gambled much of it away too.
“The only conclusion the court can draw from your conduct is that you have no conscience, and still less remorse for what you have done.”
Speaking afterwards, Detective Constable Josie Conway, from Gwent Police, said of Bufton: “He was a calculating criminal, who used his victims’ savings to fund his lifestyle, attempting to keep up the pretence that he was a successful businessman.”