A former Premier League soccer player was handed a 7½-year prison sentence Thursday for defrauding his family and friends of £15 million ($18.2m).
Richard Rufus, who played in England's top division with Charlton Athletic from 1998-2004 and also was an England under-21 international, claimed he was a successful foreign exchange trader and convinced his victims to invest in what he said was a "low-risk" scheme with promises of returns of 60% a year.
Rufus, 47, was found guilty at Southwark Crown Court of fraud, money laundering and carrying out a regulated activity without authorization.
Prosecutors found that Rufus used some of the money invested to pay back others in a pyramid scheme and the rest of the cash to "maintain a lifestyle of an elite professional footballer."
"Rufus acted in a selfish manner without any concern for his victims," Roger Makanjuola of the Crown Prosecution Service said.
"He took advantage of his status as a professional athlete, a respected church member and he used the goodwill of his family and friends to scam them and associates out of millions of pounds by falsely claiming he was able to offer a low-risk investment in the Foreign Exchange Market."
Rufus, who only played for Charlton in his pro career, was forced into retirement in 2004 because of a knee injury.