WINED AND DINED: Gregg Wallace, left, and his fiancee of the time, Heidi Brown, right, enjoyed nights out with the couple
Masterchef host Gregg Wallace has told how he was targeted by an elderly couple who have left a trail of angry investors hundreds of thousands of pounds out of pocket.
Businessman Harvey Langer, 85, and his wife Jane Lee, 76, convinced more than 40 people to hand over savings to fund their lifestyle.
In return, they promised a share in a ‘£1billion-plus’ payout from a mysterious Swiss trust fund.
In five years the couple have spent up to £1million living in a plush four-star London hotel and eating at some of the capital’s most exclusive restaurants – while ‘investors’, who handed over up to £270,000 each, have not yet seen a penny.
Now police fraud investigators are looking into a complaint about the couple made by a disgruntled backer.
However Mr Langer, who admits his scheme ‘must look like a scam’, insists all is above board and says: ‘We’re not con artists.’
The couple say Ms Lee is due to inherit a fortune from her late father who she says was ‘a Singapore tobacco tycoon’, but in the meantime they asked for money for living expenses, which have included spending five years living in two rooms in the £250-a-night Marriott Marble Arch.
Wallace was wined and dined at The Dorchester by the couple after they met in 2010, but the relationship soured when they asked for cash.
‘WE’RE NOT CON ARTISTS’: Harvey Langer, left, and Jane Lee, right, leaving the Marriott last week
Gregg Wallace, above right pictured with Masterchef co-host John Torode, said he initially found the couple 'utterly charming'
The presenter said he initially found the couple ‘utterly charming’ and that he and his fiancee of the time, Heidi Brown, shared several meals with them at exclusive restaurants such as Le Gavroche and the Waterside Inn, Bray.
Wallace said: ‘They were the most delightful couple. We got into conversation at Selfridge’s where I had a fruit and veg concession at the time. We had some really entertaining meals together, but after a while, I did begin to wonder how much of the stories were true.’
He even invited the Langers to his and Heidi’s wedding in Berkshire. In return they offered him a luxury honeymoon with them in the Caribbean, travelling by private Gulfstream jet and on a 120ft yacht, ending at the exclusive Sandy Lane Hotel, Barbados.
Wallace recalled: ‘I said to Heidi that I didn’t really want to go on honeymoon with someone else, so we said “Thanks, but no thanks”.
‘But then they phoned Heidi and said, “Look, you know we’ve got this money coming, we’re temporarily embarrassed at the moment could you lend us some?”
'I said, “No, I’m sorry, I think this would impact on our friendship in a really bad way.” At that point we stopped being friends.’
When told of concerns about the couple, 52-year-old Wallace – who has since divorced from Heidi, 35 – added: ‘If this is true, it’s awful.
‘Looking back, I think they were most certainly targeting me, although they never offered me any money.
'But maybe having me at these meals and social occasions was to add credibility to them.’
The couple asked for money for living expenses including spending five years living in two rooms in the £250-a-night Marriott Marble Arch, pictured
The couple told their ‘investors’ that blue-chip City firms were handling the transfer of funds, but when The Mail on Sunday contacted the companies they named, none had any trace of the pair.
One businessman told us he had sunk his six-figure savings into the scheme and was promised more than £20 million back.
‘I feel such a fool,’ he said. ‘When I first heard about it, my reaction was that, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. I wish I’d stuck to that.’
The MoS spoke to four people who had put in sums ranging from a few thousand to over £100,000.
All were embarrassed and angry and didn’t wish to be named. One hadn’t even told his wife.
One said: ‘I’m 99.99 per cent sure it is a scam, but I’d be lying if there wasn’t a tiny part of me that still wants to believe I’ll be a multi-millionaire.’
Yesterday, the Langers insisted their fund would pay out. ‘Of course it’s a real trust,’ said Ms Lee, refusing to elaborate.
Mr Langer added: ‘I know it must sound like a scam, but honestly it’s not.
'I feel bad for investors, but they will all get their initial investments back on Monday and, within a month, their full payment – and the margins are enormous.
'We’re not con artists, I’m a respectable businessman with no criminal record. What would be the point of this? It clearly couldn’t go on indefinitely.’
The City of London Police confirmed the case has been reported to the Action Fraud hotline and that it was being assessed.