A financial expert had to swap his £2 million Gerrards Cross home for a jail cell after he plundered his own wife’s pension fund so he could keep his fraudulent spread-betting business afloat.

Mark Hatcher, of as Raylands Mead, had been the director of no less than 10 property and finance companies and was well known in the industry for his wealth of experience, a court heard.

When the 64-year-old contacted his wealthy associates and offered to deliver three to five per cent returns for them by spread-betting on stocks and shares, six people signed away tens of thousands of pounds, in some cases their life savings, a judge was told.

However, what his clients did not know was that Hatcher was racking up vast debts through his gambling addiction. He forged his ex-wife’s signature to take out £20,000 from her pension fund so he could keep his Ponzi scheme afloat.

When Hatcher was brought before Judge Francis Sheridan in Aylesbury Crown Court, he begged the court to give him one more chance and claimed he had a "big Bitcoin deal" in the pipeline which would allow him to pay back all the £188,000 he had embezzled.

However, Judge Sheridan retorted: "I'm not going to fall into the pit of walking into a fraudster's submissions or representations.

"This is not a bitcoin court. I am not going to delude myself that you have got some bitcoin deal that is going to solve the problem. You have not."

Prosecuting, Philip Allman said: "Counts one to six are in essence a Ponzi scheme set up by the defendant. Investors were told about the defendant's credentials in the financial world and his background in spread-betting.

"Count seven relates to Ann Hatcher's pension fund, which he transferred from fraudulently. They married in 1988 and have since gone through a divorce. She described him as having an increasing desire for money and a desire to move into a bigger house. He was forced to sell his £2million home because he owed people money.

"She confronted the defendant, he admitted doing so."

He was arrested in December 2015 and charged via postal requisition, but Hatcher did not co-operate with the investigation and originally denied all the offences in April 23 this year, except for the count against his ex-wife, which he admitted. He later admitted all the offences on August 18.

Defending Hatcher, Daran Samat said: "These were people who had come to him, not through boiler room tactics - people approached because they may be vulnerable - these were people who were associated with him in property or the financial markets.

"His financial credentials were sound. Originally, he could predict well and get returns for the investments that were set out for them. Fairly soon afterwards, making losses as he was, he was simply unable to pay the people who had invested in him.

"He still, to this day, wants to repay the money out of a sense of desire to put right what has gone wrong."

Hatcher had previously worked as a director for his various businesses - including Abbey Homes (Bucks) Ltd, Global Exchange Trading Ltd and Five Points Management Company Ltd - from his detached, six-bedroom home, Hartwell House, in Hartwell Drive, Beaconsfield.

Mr Samat said: "The essence of this case is one of a man who is constantly optimistic that around the corner something is going to turn up that would result in him being able to pay the losings. He is ever optimistic that around the corner the elusive deal that he has been waiting for will come along.

"In February 2015, right at the end of this period of time, the defendant attempted suicide, predominately because he was receiving threats against him from other people whom he was connected with financially.

"I suspect there is an element that he was robbing Peter to pay Paul and could not see a way out. Apart from that one dark moment in his life, he has remained ever optimistic that somehow he is going to be able to pay this money."

The court heard how the lawyer had previously convinced Judge Sheridan to defer sentencing so Hatcher could try to get money together to pay compensation to his victims.

Mr Samat said: "Suffice to say he has made efforts but unfortunately was not able to get to where he wants to be.

"Through contacts in the financial world and property, he hoped to have conducted a number of deals, each of which have not proved to come to fruition.

"There was a property deal he is consulting over in terms of the planning in Nuneaton. He had hoped it would produce a commission. Unfortunately the property deal did not achieve the planning it said and therefore it is finished.

"There was also a financial deal involving a Chinese construction company. It was pipped to the post by a powerful offer, so that is concluded.

"One final thing he is hopeful for is a Bitcoin transaction, but there is nothing by way of a contract. He asks for another month.

"The court may have some difficulty hearing him, given that he is charged with fraud. Anybody who appears before the court for fraud sometimes has a difficulty persuading the court as to their bona fides."

Mr Samat added that Hatcher's only expenses were his £1,700 rent and modest shopping trips to Tesco during the period of the fraud.

Sentencing, Judge Sheridan told the defendant: "A time came very early on when you realised this was in difficulty because you fleeced your own wife's pension fund as far back, as I understand it, as 2015 and on the fraud goes.

"It is entirely despicable what you did. You forged a signature and you helped yourself to her pension fund. You sold your £2million home and apparently you have no money at all.

"The word will have gone around that investing with you is a nightmare that should never be entered by anybody.

"I do not think there is any remorse. You held out for as long as you could and pleaded guilty only when the inevitable was in the offing."

The judge added that prosecutors had abandoned any application for a Proceeds of Crime Act hearing because there was no realistic prospect of getting the money back.

Wearing a black Puffa-jacket, white-haired Hatcher said nothing as he was sentenced, was jailed for three years on seven counts of fraud.