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Lecturer swindled student's pounds 15,000; Gambling addict jailed for a year.

Byline: Hilary Clixby

A UNIVERSITY lecturer is behind bars after swindling one of his students out of pounds 15,000 in a sophisticated investment scam.

Majid Taghavi was a respected member of staff in the economics department at Northumbria University in Newcastle when he duped fellow Iranian Mehdi Moalemi into handing money he had been saving for his daughter's education.

The 57-year-old family man, who had an online gambling addiction, had initially borrowed money from the student after claiming he had financial difficulties and repaid the money as he said he would.

But when he later learnt the victim was putting money into a fund for his daughter's education, he urged him to buy shares in a company he claimed was being run for him by an ex-student working on the Stock Exchange, Newcastle Crown Court heard.

Taghavi told the student it was a four-year scheme which would yield a 25% profit on his investment and showed him a letterhead purporting to show what the company did.

Prosecutor Robert Adams said the victim decided to invest in the scheme and handed over a cheque for pounds 10,000 to Taghavi who, a few days later, provided him with a document confirming the investment. The document fraudulently gave the company's address as the University of Northumbria and provided the victim with a false assurance it had approval from the Finance Services Authority.

Taghavi had also forged the signature on the document. He later told the student he was aware of another "golden opportunity" for investment and persuaded him to hand over a further pounds 5,000, again providing him with bogus documentation to confirm his investment.

He was finally arrested after the victim ran into financial difficulties himself and Taghavi, who had also borrowed some pounds 12,000 from him, failed to repay any money.

Taghavi, of Waterbury Road in Brunton Park, Newcastle, admitted eight counts of obtaining a money transfer by deception, making a false instrument and unauthorised promotion of a business activity.

He was jailed for 12 months by Mr Recorder Cox.

The judge told him: "This was in my view a substantial and serious breach of trust. The victim was in a vulnerable position as one of your students and your dishonesty persisted over a long period.

"It was not by any means an isolated lapse and you demonstrated a degree of sophistication both in purporting what you did in terms of forgery and so forth, but also in the way you sought to cover up your dishonesty as the victim became suspicious about his money."

Richard Bloomfield, defending, said Taghavi had since found work as a lecturer at a university in London and had re-mortgaged his home to pay off debts of pounds 150,000. He said: "Apart from his addiction to gambling which precipitated this offending, he was a man of impeccable character. He says he accepts full responsibility ultimately for his actions and is embarrassed and ashamed."

Northumbria University's director of communications Sean Figgis said: "Had Dr Taghavi not resigned, he would have been subject to disciplinary procedures for operating a business from a university postal address and email address, breach of his contact of employment, our managing external work policy as well as breach of the implied duty of trust and confidence owed to students, and bringing the university into disrepute."
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Apr 29, 2008
Words:557
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