Bob Quigley promised handsome returns for friends and family who put their savings into his buy-to-let business.
But when property prices collapsed, so did Quigley’s business, along with the dreams of the people who entrusted him with their life savings.
Quigley, 46, from Livingston, West Lothian, earlier pled guilty to accepting cash deposits without being regulated by the Financial Services Authority.
He admitted taking £470,000 from five investors between October 2006 and February 2009. All the money was lost.
The court was told he worked in the banking industry as a financial adviser with the Royal Bank of Scotland for two years before setting up his buy-to-let firm in 2003.
Lorenzo Alonzi, defending, said the accused’s property company had grown rapidly in its first three years.
He said: “Mr Quigley had seen a 16 per cent per annum growth in the value of that portfolio. He was doing very, very well.
“Of course he regrets the half a million pounds he lost but he didn’t deceive anyone and it’s not a case of him benefiting from other people’s loss.
“Mr Quigley lost everything himself, as did his family – not to mention the humiliation and embarrassment of everything that’s fallen on the family.
“It didn’t cross his mind to apply for authorisation and it didn’t cross anyone’s mind to ask, ‘Is that chap authorised?’”
Passing sentence, Sheriff Susan Craig told Quigley he had promised to repay his investors with good interest.
She said: “You made promises to them of a return they’d get on that money in circumstances where you were not authorised to give that advice.
“There’s the thick end of £500,000 been lost as a result of your unauthorised activity.
“The whole point of registration through the Financial Services Authority is to ensure that investment advice is being given by people who are qualified to give it.
“If they’re being foolish in their investment decisions, they’re being protected from themselves and from people like you.”
She added: “The effect of you giving advice you weren’t authorised to give has left a number of people with a very significant financial loss.
“I need to mark the circumstances of this matter by imposing a custodial sentence on you.”