Property investment companies that scammed more than £9 million from almost 500 hopeful investors failed to show any profit.
The three linked companies offered investors the chance to earn money from buying and refurbishing property.
But no investors saw any cash back from their property deals.
Hometrader Group Plc and Hometrader (North West) Ltd, along with Newbury Venture Capital Ltd, duped hundreds of investors, the Insolvency Service told the High Court.
They ran several property investment schemes, including The Privilege Club, a member-only web site listing discounted properties for sale.
The site had 228 members who each paid a £5,000 subscription – but none of the properties were professionally valued and were sold at inflated prices, the court heard.
Other investors believed they were the sole investors in joint property ventures with the companies.
They were promised the return of their 25% deposits and a profit of between 20% and 50% on their investments within six months. If the property failed to sell, they would have their investment refunded plus £2,500.
No investors received a refund and many subsequently complained and found they were not the only investment partners in property deals.
Colin Cronin, who supervised the Insolvency Service investigation, said: “In ordering Newbury Venture Capital Ltd into liquidation the court found that the company had operated with both a lack of transparency and a lack of commercial probity, had adopted misleading sales practices and failed to keep proper accounting records.
“When the company was challenged to show examples of investors who had made profits on their investments no such evidence was forthcoming.”
The investigation also revealed The Privilege Club scheme to return deposits on purchasing property was a potential mortgage fraud.
The accounts and bank statements also showed substantial, unexplained payments to the directors and other connected people.