Members of the Layezy Racing betting syndicate who now fear they are the victims of a Ponzi scheme have spoken for the first time, telling stories of the lives that will be ruined if they have indeed lost their savings.
There are 5000 people, predominantly in the South East, who have been left deeply concerned that their money has gone after former Kent police officer Mike Stanley responded to a Sportsmail investigation by shutting down the syndicate and the Layezy Racing Owners Club and filing for bankruptcy.
It is understood the shortfall between how much Mr Stanley has in cash and investments and how much insolvency experts will now be asked to repay to members could be as much as £70million.
According to members who have posted information on social media, the administrators at Duff and Phelps have advised them that Stanley has not been placing bets for a number of years and fear he was in fact operating a 'Ponzi scheme'.
Craig, a 32-year-old a father-of-three from Kent, does not consider himself a victim even if he says he has now been advised by his bank that some of the money he sent to Layezy went straight on to a pre-paid credit card. He describes it as little more than a 'flutter'.
But he is horrified by many of the stories that are being shared on private members groups on Facebook.
'I have seen a number of accounts from members where it is fair to say their lives may have been ruined,' said Craig, who has his own business and asked Sportsmail not to use his surname.
'I have had communication with a lady who is in her sixties, who sold her house, and deposited the funds from that sale into the betting account. She is now facing the very real possibility that the money probably doesn't exist and she now has to start to look for a new job.
'I also know of another lady who unfortunately lost her husband at a young age and received a six-figure life insurance pay-out. She was advised by friends and family to pay into this scheme because they knew Mike personally. She did so. That was money for her three children, effectively. And it now looks like that money has gone.
'She feels she has let her children down and she doesn't know how she is going to be able to provide for her children with that hole in their financial stability.
'She is devastated. She believes she had her life ruined when her husband passed and it has now been completely shattered again.'
Craig insists he is not looking for 'sympathy'. 'I went into it with my eyes open,' he said. 'But we have drawn up a list of accounts we have paid into and there are more than 17 separate bank accounts we've identified so far. Some people, including myself, paid into a pre-paid top up card, from a company called PrePay Solutions. I have been advised by my bank that this is a card to use on the high street. That makes me feel more angry than anything else.
'But so many people are now in desperate situations. It's just terrible.'
Robert, 40, from Essex, is another member who is more concerned about those who invested far more than he did. There is concern that people could lose their homes; others their pensions.
'I put a little bit in, never a huge amount,' said Robert, who also asked us not to use his full name. 'But there is one bloke I know who put in over £100,000. Another guy sold his house and put in about £200,000 of that about five years ago, thinking he now had about £700,000 in his pot.
'The members are just normal, working people. I have not lost that much, but it does affect me because I've got lots of friends in it. I sent an email to Mike. He didn't reply.'
The members, in most cases recommended the Layezy syndicate by family, friends and work colleagues, represent a broad spectrum of the public. They range from bankers to builders, pensioners to young professionals. Sportsmail understands there is even a journalist who works for a leading news broadcaster.
But they were all drawn into the syndicate by stories of people doubling, sometimes even trebling, their investments thanks to 62-year-old Mr Stanley's brilliant system for laying bets.
Last month Sportsmail raised concerns that money members thought was being paid into the syndicate for betting was in fact being paid into bank accounts used buy and maintain horses Mr Stanley owns. Those sums alone amounted to millions of pounds.
But while the owners club has only been running since last April, we have seen evidence that suggests the syndicate has been running since 2010.
Indeed Sportsmail has been sent a number of the introductory emails that Mr Stanley sent to potential investors, all of which make similar claims about his 'winning system'.
In one, the potential investor was told: 'We will get a winning bet 88.17 per cent of the time. If you bet on every second favourite to lose you would win roughly 80 per cent of the time and lose 20 per cent and believe me you would lose thousands of pounds!
The reason is that the odds would need to be an average of 4/1 just to break even and the actual average odds for a second favourite are 5.4/1. Due to the very detailed analysis that we possess we have an 8.17 per cent advantage. Guess what. The bookies like William Hill, Ladbrokes and Corals work on an 8 per cent margin. So if you want to know what you are investing in, imagine you are a major shareholder in one of them. That's pretty exciting isn't it?'
Another such email that Mr Stanley sent to a potential investor said: 'I must admit, I am writing this piece feeling rather smug, because I know that I have found a missing link, my holy grail, - that is a winning system. I have now worked out that the definite way of beating the bookies is to become one! As from 1st January 2010 I will be operating a betting syndicate which will be known as the Layezy Racing Syndicate. As the name suggests its aim will be to make substantial profits by laying horses on the exchanges to lose!'
The email continued: 'Today, I recorded my 6,733rd race and I now know that I can make money through laying horses to lose...I am looking at my spreadsheet for the last 6 years. It shows an opening bank of £1,000. There have been 6733 lay bets. 5839 lost (that means won for us remember. ) and that is 86.72 per cent. By dividing the bank by 100 we always have an increasing stake whilst protecting the bank and as of today the closing balance is £10,111,642.'
A third email seen by Sportsmail highlighted that the syndicate was not open to everyone and there were 'limited spaces available'. It said: 'Layezy Betting Syndicate was formed in 2012 after years of testing and has proven to be a consistent slow burn profit maker for the membership year on year...Layezy has developed a method of betting with a small advantage after recording and analysing thousands of races and there are limited places available for new members.'
Detailing how the syndicate worked, it said: 'Layezy will select and place the bets for you and share the profits 50/50 and you can view your results on your own page on the website via secure password and via Facebook and Twitter.'