by Steve Beasant on 4 January, 2014
The Wales Heads of Trading Standards (WHoTS) and Swansea Council secured 14 convictions in a landmark case against staff at a firm charged with conspiracy to defraud the public. WHoTS is part of Scambusters, a National Trading Standards Board (NTSB) initiative aimed at targeting rogue trading, doorstep crime and scams.
The council brought the charges against 17 people who had posed as telesales agents for Sky and were attempting to sell unsuspecting customers insurance cover plans they did not need, misleading them about the nature of the cover and selling multiple policies for the same thing to the same customer.
Due to the number of defendants the case was divided into two trials.
All 17 worked for a business trading under a variety of names including Aurora Logistics, Cable Guy and 1st Choice Satellites.
The first trial concluded on Thursday 12th December 2013. Four of the defendants, Paul Delamere, Jordan Diment, John Stockting and Michael Stockting had pleaded guilty at the start of the trial.
Three further defendants Barbara Swain, Neville Watkins, Chris Smith and Darren Smith pleaded not guilty but were found guilty at Swansea Crown Court .
One defendant, Chris Smith, was acquitted.
At a further hearing at Swansea Crown Court on 20th December 2013, seven defendants, Sammy Jo Mathews, Sara Nash, Ryan Davey, Nicholas Griffiths, Jamie Williams, Richard Imms and Thomas Howlett who were scheduled to appear in the second trial changed their pleas to guilty.
The cases against Kelly Stockting and Richard Smith were discontinued.
Judge Paul Thomas requested pre-sentence reports and adjourned the matter for sentencing which will occur in the middle of February.
Judge Thomas also complimented the manner in which a complex case had been presented to the court, the clarity of the evidence given by Trading Standards Officer Rhys Harries and the volume of work undertaken by Harries and his colleagues to bring the matter to court.
June Burtonshaw, cabinet member for Place, said: “This case brings to a conclusion the largest investigation ever undertaken by Trading Standards and Benefit Officers in Swansea. The nature of the fraud was organised and cynical.
“It became clear that this business was taking advantage of vulnerable consumers who were frightened into believing they would be left without television programmes in the event of a problem unless they took out a cover plan for their equipment.
“I am pleased that the judge recognised the efforts of Council staff in bringing these people to justice. I hope this successful case sends a clear message that we will not tolerate illegal and fraudulent practices which target vulnerable consumers.”
When the case began in 2010, the council’s trading standards responded to hundreds of complaints from people across the UK relating to phone calls being made by the gang who were posing as Sky representative and implementing misleading and bullying style tactics to get people to sign up for different policies.
The council also confirmed that up to 60% of staff who had worked for the business had fraudulently claimed multiple benefits from the council and also the Department for Work and Pensions without declaring this. Court action has previously taken place.
Sentencing is scheduled for 12th and 13th of February. For a link to the report, click here.Leave a comment