Eleven jailed in stamp scam, one of Spain’s ‘biggest frauds’

Spain's top criminal court said Wednesday it had sentenced 11 former executives of stamp firm Afinsa to up to 12 years in jail for their role in a vast scam that ruined thousands of savers.

Eleven jailed in stamp scam, one of Spain's 'biggest frauds'

The Madrid-based Audiencia Nacional also ordered six of the accused to pay €2.57 billion  ($2.8 billion) in compensation for the losses incurred by investors – including former Afinsa president Juan Antonio Cano, who was sentenced to 12 years and ten months in prison.   

The court said the scam, which saw Afinsa sell low quality and sometimes fake stamps for highly inflated prices to more than 190,000 people in Spain and Portugal from 1998 to 2006, was “one of the biggest frauds our courts ever experienced.”

The company promised to buy back people's stamps after these supposedly rose in value, which would see their clients recoup their initial investment plus interest, the court said.

But given that the reportedly rare stamps were actually of little value in the collectors market, initial investors were only paid thanks to the cashflow received by other newer customers, in a classic Ponzi scheme.

By 2006 when authorities started investigating the scam, Afinsa had accumulated €2.57 billion in liabilities.

According to the court, the investors were largely middle-class people, “who in many cases lost the savings they were keeping for retirement or for crisis situations.”

In one case reported by the El Pais daily in May 2006, nearly half of the 2,300 inhabitants of the village of Dosbarrios, a farming community in the heart of the country, lost their savings.

Apart from Cano, who was found guilty of aggravated fraud and criminal insolvency, the other former executives received prison sentences ranging from two years and three months to 11 years.

They were also ordered to pay fines totalling more than €72 million.

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Spain’s ‘2,000-tumour man’ sentenced for scamming donors

A Spaniard known as "the man with 2,000 tumours" who lied about having terminal cancer was handed a two-year jail term Monday for scamming donations from thousands, including celebrities.

Spain's '2,000-tumour man' sentenced for scamming donors
De Cedecejj - Trabajo propio, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Paco Sanz, 50, appeared regularly on television and social media between 2010 and 2017, claiming to have nearly 2,000 tumours as a result of Cowden syndrome.

Saying he had only months to live, he appealed for donations via his web page, through text messages and even a charity gala.   

Although he did suffer from the syndrome, all his tumours were benign and posed no threat to his life.

Prosecutors say the former security guard collected just under €265,000 ($319,000) before being arrested in March 2017 in the eastern Valencia region.   

Among those who sent him money were popular television presenter Jorge Javier Vazquez and Spanish footballer Alvaro Negredo.    

Prosecutors accused Sanz of “taking advantage of his illness” to “obtain illegal funding”.

They said he presented the disease as being “much more serious than it really was” and of falsely claiming he could only be saved if he got experimental treatment in the United States.   

In reality, he travelled to the US to take part in a free clinical trial and “all his costs were covered” by the firm running it, prosecutors added.    

In video obtained by Spanish media at the time of his arrest, Sanz could be seen joking with his girlfriend and family members about the lies he was telling.

As his trial opened in Madrid on Monday, Sanz pleaded guilty to fraud, receiving a two-year jail sentence, while his girlfriend was sentenced to a year and nine months for being his accomplice.

But they are not likely to serve time behind bars, as sentences below two years are usually suspended in Spain for first-time offenders convicted of non-violent crimes.

The trial will continue so the court can determine how much money the pair owe in damages.

READ ALSO: Fraudster parents of sick girl jailed for charity scam