BOXED in by a 12-foot high brick wall, grid-iron fence and a thick hedgerow, it is certainly a good place to hide if you owe up to 20 million euros.
Plush Villa Verbena, in Urbanisation Cortijo de Mesa, just a stone’s throw from Ikea, in Malaga, has all the trappings of wealth.
Aside from the 24-hour on-site security guards who survey the spotless suburban streets, the split level villa boasts five bedrooms and a large leafy garden.
But the biggest giveaway perhaps, is the sleek black BMW, which can be seen when looking at the house on Google’s innovative new application Street View.
For this is one of many cars owned by Andalucia’s most wanted Jose Luis Maseda, 67, who has apparently disappeared, as exclusively reported in the Olive Press last month, after wheeling and dealing for more than 25 years.
Claiming to be a lawyer, financial consultant and tax advisor, Maseda wooed hundreds of clients to invest their money from the confines of his Eurobrokers office, in central Benalmadena.
up to 100 former clients, are trying to track him down in a bid to discover what has happened to an estimated 20 million euros invested through him.
But now, the Fraud Squad, and up to 100 former clients, are trying to track him down in a bid to discover what has happened to an estimated 20 million euros invested through him.
Most peoples’ accounts are similar, with smooth-talking Maseda having been recommended to them via a series of third parties, or even local banks.
Billed as the key to getting a licence, buying a house, or successfully investing money, they were usually taken in by his excellent English and confident manner.
The Olive Press has spoken to around two dozen expatriates, some of whom now claim to be facing financial ruin.
A joint action has this week been launched by Fuengirola lawyer Juan Carlos Carrasco, who has signed up at least five clients.
These include Geoff Gales, 59, who claims that he and his family have lost up to 1.5 million euros through Maseda.
The boss of CG Properties Geoff Gales, 59, who worked closely with Maseda for 10 years, invested the money in a number of plots on a failed golf venture in Villanueva del Rosario, near Antequera.
He has spent the best part of the past year investigating the movements and behaviour of Maseda.
“I believe he has a questionable track record dating back some 35 years to when he first ventured down to the coast from Madrid,” he explained.
I discovered that he had taken out a mortgage in my name without my permission
“I spoke to one British doctor, for example, who claims to have lost money in one of his deals 33 years ago.”
Another case involves Fiona Tiernan, 57, from Ireland, who discovered that Maseda had taken out a mortgage in her name without her permission after she gave him her power of attorney.
“The first thing I knew was when I was contacted by Bankinter notifying me of a 92,000 euro mortgage that had received no repayments,” said Tiernan.
She has now filed a report to the National Police fraud squad in Benalmadena, who are investigating her case.
“How Maseda lives with himself confounds me. It would appear he has no conscience,” she added.
Getting his clients’ power of attorney, appears to be one of Maseda’s favourite methods.
Linda Smith, 51, from Bedfordshire, also discovered she had a 95,000 euro mortgage through Bankinter after signing power of attorney over to him.
The mother-of-two had initially been put in touch with Maseda after visiting the Benalmadena branch of Banco Popular.
“I had wanted to sell my house and Banco Popular recommended I spoke to Maseda.
“I went to see him and he told me that he knew people who could take the house off my hands, so I signed over my power of attorney to him and heard nothing.
“Some time later I was notified that I had apparently taken out a 95,000 euro mortgage with Bankinter and the house wasn’t sold.”
It emerged that Bankinter paid off the original 40,000 euro mortgage to Banco Popular and set up a new mortgage in her name.
“I never signed anything,” insists Smith. “No application forms. Maseda handled everything, even disclosing what he thought was my occupation and salary.”
The Olive Press has learned that Maseda was an official bank agent for Banco Popular – a very convenient relationship, especially as his offices were a two-minute walk away.
His website also claimed to be an authorised agent for numerous other banks, such as Halifax and Sol Bank.
At least one of these, Sol Bank, however, insisted to the Olive Press that it had no record of Maseda’s name or company.
Police confirmed the connection between Banco Popular and Maseda, but were quick to quash any suggestions of impropriety.
Detective Juan Martin, who is handling the case, explained: “Although there was definite interaction, I am sure bank employess were equally unaware of the man’s dealings.”
The complicated Eurobrokers saga dates back 27 years, when, in 1982, a youthful Maseda opened his own financial advisory company.
Born and educated in Madrid, the 39-year-old, like many fast young bucks of the time, saw the chance to make serious money on the Costa del Sol, which had become one of Europe’s holiday playgrounds.
His company Eurobrokers aimed to help people looking to invest in the lucrative Spanish property market.
Success soon followed and Maseda embarked on setting up “franchises” across the world in places as far flung as Bolivia and Ecuador.
One affiliate called Ecuacasa – part of the official ‘Eurobrokers Group’ – promises “to do whatever it takes to ensure the seamless purchase, sale or legalisation” of property bought in Ecuador.
The Olive Press did not receive a response from Ecuacasa after trying to make contact.
However, over the past five years, this apparent success only served to mask the mounting debts that Maseda was racking up with clients back in Spain.
Many of these were caught up in the failed golf development in Villanueva del Rosario, which is now mired in controversy and under investigation in the courts.
The Olive Press believes Maseda was involved in the sale of dozens of plots in the scheme, before it was passed by the authorities.
His motivation though seems almost entirely to have been based on one simple thing, money.
“He was absolutely obsessed by money, it was what drove him the whole time,” says a former client allegedly owed 174,000 euros by Maseda, who wishes to remain anonymous.
“The sole purpose of his existence was making cash. He was a spendaholic.”
And the evidence of Maseda’s work was always on display. Aside from his Malaga home, he also owned properties in El Pinar, close to Torremolinos, as well as Madrid and, allegedly, South America.
He carried all the trappings of wealth. He drove a Mercedes and a BMW motorbike
He carried all the trappings of wealth. He drove a black Mercedes, BMW as well as a BMW motorbike.
Appearances meant everything to Maseda. He sported a gold Rolex watch, the latest designer suits and would boast about having two house maids to help his wife Dolores.
“He lived a life of luxury, every Sunday morning he would religiously wash all six of the family cars,” explains Richard Taylor, former partner of Costa Property Services Spain – a company formerly linked with Maseda.
Another client, Victoria Pickles, 36, from Norwich, who bought a 100,000 euro house through Maseda, which, six years later, is still yet to be legalised, was instantly seduced by Maseda.
“He seemed very money-orientated and part of that drew me in. What sticks out in my mind is the big gold bracelet he always wore, as well as the pristine leather jacket.”
When the Olive Press managed to locate one of Maseda’s homes, near Malaga, we got a remarkable insight from his own sister-in-law, Choni – who lives in the other half of the house.
Highly emotional and choking back tears she explained that neither herself or her sister, Dolores, (Maseda’s wife) knew where he was currently living.
She insisted that she had not heard from him for months and her sister had been getting regular medical treatment due to her stress levels. “He is a charming man, but he has ruined us,” she concluded.
If this is indeed the case, they will be joining a large and very long line of disgruntled people.