A serial fraudster who lied about having terminal cancer has been jailed for six years and nine months after executing an insurance and investment scam worth almost £2m.
The swindle included a £1.2m fake critical illness (CI) claim which was paid out by the insurer but subsequently recovered.
However, one of the victims of his £625,000 bogus investment scheme was forced to sell their home to cover their debt.
Rajesh Ghedia of Parkside, New Haw, Addlestone, who worked at Bank of America, was found to have defrauded multiple insurance and pension companies out of more than £1.3m by pretending he had stage four pancreatic cancer and less than a year to live.
Ghedia also exploited his role at a well-known investment bank to convince friends, family and acquaintances to invest in financial products that did not exist. In reality, the victims had transferred nearly £625,000 directly into his personal account.
Today’s sentencing at Southwark Crown Court came after his mortgage lender highlighted the fraud which triggered investigations by the City of London Police’s insurance fraud enforcement department (IFED), fraud operations team and asset recovery team.
He will now be subject to confiscation proceedings and the asset recovery team will seek to recover the funds illicitly acquired.
During the course of his career, Ghedia signed up to a number of pension plans which allowed him to withdraw funds should he be given less than 12 months to live.
He also took out a life insurance policy with critical illness cover in March 2017 with an insurer, which could be claimed on should he be diagnosed with a terminal illness. The value of this policy was £1.2m.
Ghedia first contacted the pensions team for one of his plans in October 2020 to report he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and claiming he had no more than 12 months to live.
Shortly after, the company received a document supposedly from a doctor at a private clinic in London, confirming the diagnosis and adding that the cancer had spread aggressively.
Checks were conducted to ensure the legitimacy of the medical professional. As the doctor was listed on the General Medical Council register, the pension provider released two payments to Ghedia totalling £14,581.32.
Ghedia contacted his insurer around three months later to make a claim on his life insurance policy.
The insurer attempted to make contact with Ghedia, but did not hear back from him for over a month. Ghedia alleged that he was unreachable over this period because he had been admitted to hospital.
But a review of the medical reports presented by Ghedia raised concerns for his insurer.
While Ghedia stated over the phone that he was diagnosed in June 2020, the reports dated his diagnosis to July 2019.
The insurance company contacted the doctor listed on the report, who confirmed the diagnosis and provided further documents showing that Ghedia was receiving weekly treatment for cancer.
As these documents indicated that the illness was genuine, the insurance company paid the sum of £1,201,096.97 into Ghedia’s account in May 2021.
This same month, Action Fraud, the national fraud and cybercrime reporting centre, received a report from mortgage provider Spring Finance.
The company explained that Ghedia had stopped making his mortgage payments and that they were taking the case to court. Spring Finance was informed of Ghedia’s diagnosis and provided with the accompanying medical reports.
A fraud investigator at Spring Finance, doubting the authenticity of the documents, made contact with the care providers that had been listed. A number of the care providers said that the doctors named were not consultants for them.
IFED launched its investigation in June 2021, after receiving the report from Action Fraud. Initial enquiries led them to the main doctor named on Ghedia’s medical reports.
This doctor confirmed that he had never treated anyone with the name Rajesh Ghedia, nor had anyone with this name been a patient at his clinic.
The doctor also proved that the email addresses and signatures on documents provided by Ghedia were fake.
IFED officers executed a warrant at Ghedia’s home, where they discovered evidence indicating further fraudulent claims.
The investigation found Ghedia had claimed early on a further five pension plans because of his ‘illness’.
The total value withdrawn from these plans came to £69,335.36.
Enquiries also found that Ghedia had submitted applications for two more life insurance policies in June and July 2021.
For both these applications, Ghedia provided reports stating that he was not undergoing any medical treatment, nor had he been diagnosed with any illnesses.
During an interview with IFED officers, Ghedia answered, ‘no comment’.
Erika Leung, compliance manager at Spring Finance, said: “As soon as this case landed on my desk, it was clear Ghedia’s story did not add up.
“The timeline of his diagnosis coupled with the lack of contact, payments and suspicious medical documents immediately raised alarm bells, leading us to report the case to Action Fraud.
“I am pleased that we were able to assist the police with their investigation, which has resulted in Ghedia rightly facing justice for his crimes.”
Turning to Ghedia’s investment fraud conviction, the court heard he was employed by a bank as program lead in the global technology and operations department, a support role in which he had no authority to offer financial advice or investment opportunities to existing or potential clients.
The bank was contacted in May 2020 by a man who was concerned that he was being defrauded by a bank employee.
He identified the employee as Ghedia and explained that he had paid almost £135,000 into a portfolio investing in a cinema chain.
The investment, which guaranteed a tax-free return, had been set up by the head of the trading desk, Rajesh Ghedia. He was told that the portfolio had since been taken over by another investment firm, but he could not reach anyone at this firm and Ghedia had ceased contact.
The bank looked into the account that the client had been paying into and found that it was a personal account rather than one linked to the bank.
This led to an examination of Ghedia’s work computer, where his employer found the correspondence with the investor. Ghedia was suspended while Bank of America investigated.
The case was referred to the City of London Police’s Fraud Operations team, which found further victims that Ghedia had duped into ‘investing’.
Ghedia was found to have deceived his victims by posing as the head of the trading desk at the bank.
He would then present a profitable investment opportunity to the individual, and instruct them to transfer funds into one of the bank’s portfolios, which was in fact one of his personal bank accounts.
When the investor asked to withdraw the funds or questioned the lack of return, Ghedia would offer a number of excuses including delays due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the UK leaving the European Union.
He even at one point alleged that Russian hackers had intercepted the funds, and advised the client to report it to Action Fraud.
Victims forced to sell home
One of Ghedia’s victims was his regular taxi driver, who he convinced to invest more than £35,000 into a portfolio with an investment bank.
The taxi driver and his wife were informed by the ‘bank’ that they had broken regulations with them and needed to pay £72,531.90 in unpaid taxes.
The couple borrowed the funds from a friend with the reassurance that they would receive a disbursement from their investment.
Ghedia offered multiple excuses for the delay to the disbursement, including a lie that he and his family had been in a car crash whilst in the US.
As the couple were unable to reach Ghedia, they turned up at his property unannounced. Ghedia lied once again, telling them that his daughter had died as a result of the injuries sustained in the crash.
As the couple needed to repay the friend that had lent them the money for the tax bill, they were left with no option but to sell their home.
But Ghedia’s list of victims went beyond acquaintances, as he even defrauded one of his own family members. Ghedia approached a family member with an opportunity through an investment bank.
Having paid more than £63,000 into the investment, the relative became suspicious when the returns did not come through.
After contacting the bank himself, Ghedia’s relative was informed by the investment bank that his investment did not exist.
Detective Constable Kirsty Watley from the force’s Asset Recovery Team (ART) identified Ghedia’s assets, including a £1.6m property, which was put under a Restraint Order under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
The team also completed checks on Ghedia’s bank account, discovering a payment for £1.2m from an insurance company. Suspecting this could be linked to fraud, the team quickly acted to restrain the money and alerted IFED of the potential insurance fraud.
Ghedia failed to turn up to a disciplinary hearing at his place of work and was sacked in June 2020.
Officers from the Fraud Operations team arrested Ghedia in August 2020. He answered, ‘no comment’ to all questions when interviewed.
Detective constable Daniel Weller, of IFED at the City of London Police, said: “It is both disturbing and despicable that Ghedia exploited systems which are set up to help those who are terminally ill – not to line the pockets of greedy fraudsters.
“Ghedia shows no sign of having a moral compass. Hopefully some time behind bars will give him the opportunity to find one.”
Detective constable Simon Andrews, of fraud operations at the City of London Police, added: “Investment fraudsters often hide behind social media profiles or target complete strangers.
“Ghedia was far more brazen than this, presenting himself in person to acquaintances as a senior trader at one of the world’s biggest investments banks. Personal relationships were also not a boundary for Ghedia’s crimes, as he even went to the extreme of deceiving his own relative for financial gain.
“Today’s result hopefully provides some form of redress for the many people impacted by this fraudster’s reckless actions.”