Ex Police Sergeant Admits Running £44 Million Gambling Syndicate Ponzi Scheme

Danger Ponzi Scheme SignThere may have been times in the past when you have considered paying into a betting syndicate – and you’d assume one run by a former sergeant in Kent Police might be a trustworthy avenue.

But you’d be wrong – Michael Stanley was in fact defrauding his members to the tune of £10 million.

He ran the Layezy Racing Syndicate (LRS), accumulating a group of over 6,000 paid members. Between them, they ploughed around £44 million into the network – some of which was to facilitate a racehorse ownership scheme, but with a ‘small amount’ to be ploughed into betting.

So where did all the money go?

Protect and Serve

Stanley operated LRS between 2013 and 2019, accruing that huge membership network – with a reported 3,000 other people on the waiting list to join.

The idea behind a gambling syndicate is that the funds supplied by its members are pooled into carefully thought-out bets, which in this case would be decided and placed by Stanley, a former police sergeant. Any winnings are then paid out to members proportionately based upon their investment, or pooled back into the kitty.

But, as the Sevenoaks Magistrates Court has been hearing this week, Stanley has been charged with dishonestly making false representations – with prosecutors claiming that the defendant ‘lied’ to syndicate members, ‘deliberately concealed’ details of how the fund was being used and instead operated a campaign of ‘massive fraud’.

Stanley has been charged with three offences all told, which include breaches of the Fraud Act 2006 and the Companies Act 2006. He has pleaded guilty to all, and his case will now switch to Maidstone Crown Court for sentencing.

Stanley ran LRS primarily as a racehorse ownership syndicate, with 23 horses housed at yards operated by the likes of Rebecca Menzies and Ivan Furtado – he has since had his owner’s licence revoked by the BHA after filing for bankruptcy.

A Ponzi scheme is where existing members are paid out using the subscription fees of newer sign-ups, creating a loop in which the Ponzi operator is making money without needing to invest anything themselves.

Police and Thieves

It was as recently as 2023 that another former police officer was charged with involvement in a fraudulent betting syndicate.

Joshua McGrory, who served local forces in the north east of England, allowed for bank and betting site accounts to be opened in his name – despite not using them personally.

McGrory received ‘financial rewards’ from those operating the syndicate, which would later be unveiled as a racket used for fraudulent online gambling and money laundering.

He was found guilty of gross misconduct and resigned from his role, with Humberstone Police superintendent Andy Maultby commenting: “There are some individuals who should not wear a police uniform and McGrory is one of them.”

How to Spot a Scam Betting Syndicate

As most of us are aware these days, online fraud – be it identity theft, hacking bank accounts and the like – is becoming more sophisticated and difficult to detect.

So it pays to know exactly what you’re getting into when joining a betting syndicate, because for the many that are run professionally on behalf of their members, there are those governed by bad eggs with Ponzi-style aspirations to defraud and manipulate.

One of the biggest red flags is when a syndicate ‘guarantees’ that you will enjoy untold riches and success – maybe they claim to have developed software or a analytical model that delivers ridiculous (and unverified) results when picking winners.

A good question to ask yourself is if the syndicate operator has a unique edge in predicting horse races or football matches, why are they sharing it with you?

Betting syndicates are becoming more prominent on social media, where bot accounts are created to target anyone that has shown an interest in sports betting. Followers join a network for a fee, being promised that funds are being wagered on ‘sure things’ and insider knowledge.

Again, why would anyone share such a privileged position in the public sphere?

Betting syndicates that actually share betslips of placed wagers, and which offer members an insight into how the selections have been made, are evidently more trustworthy straight off the bat.

It’s also worth contacting the syndicate operator to ask them about withdrawals – can you request your cash back at any time? How long will it take for your money to be sent and received? If their answers to these questions are, shall we say, questionable, then it’s perhaps best to avoid them altogether.

Remember, gambling syndicates operate outside the jurisdiction of the regulator or any independent ombudsman – the only avenue you have for recourse is to contact the police. That’s why it’s so important that you do your due diligence before signing up for a syndicate membership….the operators can disappear without a trace or, like Charles Ponzi, hide in plain sight.