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U.S. father-daughter duo charged in $70 mln fraud

A father-and-daughter team accused of duping 15,000 mainly elderly British investors out of $70 million was arrested in Florida on Thursday and charged with a series of crimes, U.S. officials said.

Paul Robert Gunter, 58, of Odessa, Florida, and Zibiah Joy Gunter, 25, of Oldsmar, Florida, are suspected of hijacking the identities of dormant, publicly traded companies and selling fake stock in them to clients in Britain through high-pressure and misleading sales techniques.

The duo persuaded their victims to transfer more than $70 million into their bank accounts in Florida and elsewhere, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency said in a statement.

"This is part of an ongoing investigation into a mass marketing crime scam known as boiler room fraud," said Deputy Chief Inspector Robert Wishart, head of the Money Laundering Unit at the City of London Police.

"Thousands of British people have fallen victim to this crime -- in this inquiry alone, we estimate that around 15,000 mostly elderly people have lost money," Wishart said in the statement issued by ICE.

Gunter and his daughter were charged with conspiring to commit and committing mail fraud, wire fraud, securities fraud, and money laundering.

The charges carry maximum penalties of five to 25 years in prison. The money laundering charge also carries a fine of twice the total gain to the defendants, or twice the total loss to victims, whichever is larger.

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