First Step Finance was a company that promised to help. Its clients were mostly poor, who had gone to them for financial support and getting out of debt.
The firm, run by Christine and Adrian Whitehurst, told customers their money would be gathered in secure pots, and used to make a final payment clearing their debts.
That’s not what happened. Instead, 4,000 people lost £6million between them – while the Whitehursts enjoyed a life of luxury.
Here is some of what they spent it on:
- £500,000 on holidays at five star hotels, restaurants, bars and entertainment;
- £200,000 on vehicles, including a Bentley and a Range Rover;
- £50,000 on luxury brand goods, including items from Louis Vuitton and Hermes
All in all, the FCA reports they misappropriated at least £2.75 million of client money – that they never repaid.
“The Whitehursts were trusted by their customers, who were extremely vulnerable, to help them with their debt problems,” said Mark Steward, FCA executive director of enforcement.
“They abused this trust, living a luxury lifestyle at the expense of people who could not afford to lose their money.”
The FCA has banned them from “any function in relation to any regulated activity” – and also referred the matter to the police.
“They showed complete disregard for the consequences of their actions and we have taken the strongest action possible in preventing them from operating in financial services again.”