Aston Darby Investor Action.
On 10th May 2020 Safe Or Scam initiated a repayment claim for £850,000 unlawfully obtained from investors by Drake Estates Property Company Ltd relating to the Aston Darby car parking plot investment scheme in Manchester.
The basis of any car parking plot scheme is that the founders buy a field, divide it into plots, sell each plot for an inflated price raising ten times the true value of the land, pay investors a “guaranteed rental” of 8%-10% per year for a couple of years and build a car park on the land. Building a car park is basically laying some tarmac and getting steamroller to flatten it.
What they don’t tell investors is that the guaranteed rental payments are actually the investors’ own money being paid back to them to make it look like the car park is genuine and is doing well. They also don’t tell investors that the plot is only worth one tenth of the true land value. Sure, it’s a rip-off and it’s a terrible investment, but it’s also an unregulated collective investment scheme.
To those who don’t know what that means it can best be described as investors have bought into a car parking BUSINESS without even realising it. The fact they own a plot in the middle of a tarmacked field is irrelevant. The rental income and the value of that plot is determined by the performance of the car parking BUSINESS. If the car parking business fails then the plot is virtually worthless. Who is going to buy plot 637 in the middle of a tarmacked field ?
The investor has effectively bought shares in the Aston Darby car parking business on that site. Selling shares in a business is a FCA regulated activity. So this is really a FCA-regulated activity dressed up to look like a land deal. Aston Darby aren’t regulated by the FCA so they not authorised to sell shares.
But you might say “well, the investors do own a plot of land”. Yes, they do own plots and those plots may even be registered at the Land Registry. But who will ever buy one plot in a field off an investor ?
Picture this scenario – “Hello Mr Heywood, I’m looking to get into the car parking business and I see you’re selling the freehold on this plot of land. I have to say, it’s remarkably cheap for such a large plot. Oh, I see, the price is low because there are some leases over the land. How many ? 1,000 – are you mad ! You’re telling me that if I buy the freehold I have to negotiate with 1,000 leaseholders before I can park any cars ! Then, I’ll have to buy plots off them one by one and that most of them won’t agree to sell unless I give them back £25,000 per plot ! That’s ten times what those plots are worth ! No chance – I’m off. Good luck finding anyone to buy any plot.”
Investors will never be able to sell their plots for a price which is anywhere near what they paid for them. The participants knew that. They also knew that the scheme breached FCA regulations which is why they came up with the most elaborate and incredible workaround in an attempt to circumvent the regulations. This is why investor action is now necessary.
The guaranteed rental is only for a couple of years. After that it’s market forces which determine the rentals. That means the investor’s yield of 10% will plummet to around 1%, possibly less. It’ll be 80 years before they’ll get their investment money back.
That sounds pretty dreadful, but Aston Darby has taken car parking schemes to a new level. Drake Estates Property Company Ltd (the Aston Darby company which claims to own the Manchester car park site) sold 34 plots to our investor group for £850,000 i.e £25,000 per plot. The investors received 8% guaranteed rentals for two years which amounted to £136,000. Then the rentals stopped. OK, you might say that Aston Darby did tarmac the whole site and build the car park. Well……. not exactly. In fact, NOT AT ALL.
ASTON DARBY DOES NOT OWN THE MANCHESTER SITE AND NEVER HAS. THEY SOLD HUNDREDS OF CAR PARKING PLOTS ON A FIELD THEY DON’T OWN.
Leigh Heywood of Aston Darby Group has recently written two letters to the poor victims of his car parking plot investment schemes. Normally at this point we would dissect the letters and comment on relevant paragraphs, but he’s a prolific writer and we just can’t be bothered responding in detail to his 10 pages of drivel. We’ll give you a quick summary:
2nd April letter
1. Rental payments are suspended due to Covid 19;
2. Lots of people are owed overdue rental payments (no surprise there – new investment into the scheme has dried up);
3. HMRC are responsible for a lot of Aston Darby’s problems because those naughty tax inspectors aren’t treating the companies fairly;
4. Mr Leonard Fenton is a right b******. We don’t know the guy but according to Leigh Heywood he is responsible for destroying Park First, Group First and Store First which makes him a nasty man. Somebody should point out to Leigh Heywood that these were all scams !
5. Investors in Park First have turned on the FCA and have come to Leigh Heywood to ask for his help; HAHAHAHA……Stop it Leigh – that’s really funny. Was that in a dream ?;
6. Investors mustn’t close down Aston Darby because it’ll be expensive. HAHAHAHA – another good one. That’s like saying the Police shouldn’t arrest a thief because there’ll be a lot of forms for them to fill in;
7. Leigh Heywood regards himself as a charitable man. In fact, in his eyes, he’s virtually a saint. He only takes £1,000 per month in salary and he uses most of it to pay company bills. HAHAHAHA……Stop it Leigh – you’re at it again. It’s too much;
8. Here’s the bit we really like – “If you want to close us down and take legal action against us, then I will not defend any action, I will simply let the courts close us down…..” GREAT NEWS. THAT’S WHAT WE’LL DO THEN. IT’LL HELP US SEE WHERE ALL THE MONEY WENT.
2nd May Letter
This is the letter we prefer because we get mentioned quite a bit.
1. Safe Or Scam are scammers because “we want frenzied and fearful investors to start an uprising against their own investment”. Actually, we don’t want any frenzied or fearful investors. That would be a bit of a nightmare. We prefer calm and sensible investors who realise that investor action is going to be necessary to attempt to recover their money. We just tell the truth and people like Leigh Heywood don’t like the truth;
2. Safe Or Scam will “terrify you with horror stories”…… Err, we just tell the truth. We think Leigh had been drinking by this point because he gets weirder;
3. Safe Or Scam this and Safe or Scam that – definitely been drinking;
4. There’s a whole lot of stuff about Smooth Law. More than there is about us which is pretty annoying ! Apparently law firms can’t be trusted because they use the law – yes, the law – HOW DARE THEY ! Apparently, they use the law to go after people who rip-off investors. As far as Leigh is concerned that is a total abuse of the law. The law was not established to catch crooks !
5. There’s a former employee who Leigh really doesn’t like. It looks like this guy had the guts to draw people’s attention to the unlawful nature of the scheme so Leigh Heywood really goes after him. I think the employee is going to have the last laugh;
6. Finally Leigh Heywood finishes with five statements which are designed to stop investors getting involved in an investor action. They are:
YOU HAVE A CAR PARK……………Well, that’s the whole point for the Manchester investors – THEY DON’T !
YOU HAVE A GREAT OPERATOR…….. Well, there isn’t one because Manchester is still a field. And it’s a field that Aston Darby doesn’t own !
YOU HAVE NEW ONLINE BOOKERS READY TO START WORKING TO BRING CARS INTO YOUR CAR PARK AND GENERATE INCOME FOR YOU……….. Well, our Manchester clients don’t !
YOU HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY FOR A GREAT FUTURE………. Madame Heywood has taken up fortune telling. Cross his palm with silver and then check that you still have your fingers. Thank you for that Leigh, I’m sure our investors do have the opportunity for a great future, but not if you keep their money. Refund their money and that’ll go a very long way to making their great future a reality.
YOU HAVE A SOLID INVESTMENT…………..Oh no – he’s back to his comedy act.
OK, on a serious note – Aston Darby is an unlawful scheme and investors are entitled to full refunds. It doesn’t matter if you invested in Manchester or Glasgow. They are both massively over-priced unlawful schemes and investors should press for a full refund. In our opinion investors should NOT switch from Manchester to Glasgow. In our opinion investors should NOT accept shares in return for giving up their leases. We believe the nature of the leases and the way they were sold to investors gives them the right to full refunds. Swapping them for shares will remove that right. If in any doubt seek the advice of a solicitor, BUT NOT THE ONE YOU USED TO BUY THE PLOTS.
Investors DO have recovery options available to them. We will be contacting investors in the next week or so with a letter from a law firm explaining what the options are for a recovery action.
There are many people who have played a part in this scheme including Greg Heywood, Katrina Heywood, Christopher Miller, Michael Gibbons, Steven Kane, Michael Starvis, Roderick Bailey and John Clinton. We will be delving into each of them in much greater detail. Some of them have a history of involvement in collapsed scams. All of them are being looked at in connection with the Aston Darby investor action.
There are many aspects to this scheme which bear closer scrutiny such as what is Aston Darby’s UK solicitor doing with an offshore company domiciled in the Seychelles ? and how does the Glasgow site suddenly increase in value so much just before Aston Darby buys it ?
One would almost think it was an engineered inflated price which allowed a poor guy who only gets paid £1,000 a month to extract company funds without attracting too much attention. Well, it attracted our attention. The previous owner was a secretive offshore company……..
Here’s the history of the Glasgow site for those who are interested:
SOLD August 2001 Price £474,000
SOLD April 2007 Price £400,000
SOLD December 2011 Price £300,000
SOLD April 2016 Price £500,000
SOLD September 2017 Price £3,300,000 (bought by Aston Darby using investors’ money)
We have started the ball rolling on an Aston Darby investor action and are inviting investors to join.