177 victims of fraud are fully compensated
Victims of two local plumbing companies who defrauded their clients have thanked Southampton’s Trading Standards team, having been fully compensated for their financial losses, following the successful prosecution of the individuals involved. Following a five month trial at Southampton Crown Court, eight defendants were found guilty of money laundering and fraud offences. A further defendant had previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud. Between them the nine defendants have paid, or have been ordered to pay, compensation totalling over £350,000. This figure will increase as subsequent compensation payments are scheduled to be paid up until July 2020.
After a four year investigation Southampton City Council’s Trading Standards put evidence before the court of 177 victims, who had paid sums varying from £200 to over £18,000 for plumbing and drainage work. Prosecuting for the council, Nicholas Haggan QC told the court that customers had been misled about how the bill was to be calculated, about the need for the work to be done and what had been done. Money was also taken from customer’s accounts without permission.
The council’s Trading Standards team worked alongside National Trading Standards to uncover the activity of the fraudsters, who were mainly from the Bournemouth area, targeting victims across the South of England, including residents of Southampton, Eastleigh, Dorset and Somerset.
Mrs Ferec-Dayson from Romsey said: “I had to give my card details before the work started but when the work was finished I was told I would receive an invoice and could pay then. However when I received the invoice in the post I discovered that my card had already been debited by £3,656.28 without my knowledge or permission, I was horrified by the cost. I wrote and complained but never got a response.”
Mrs and Mr Prince of Eastleigh, who were 81 and 92 at the time the offence was committed, but, unfortunately, are both now deceased (compensation paid to surviving family), approached 1st Active Drainage Ltd in 2012 in relation to a blocked drain. The company then proceeded to carry out work that wasn’t needed and took payments of £1,794 and £1,984 from Mrs Prince’s account without her permission.
Mrs Prince made a witness statement to Trading Standards at the time of the event in which she stated: “I would not have used this company if they had been more upfront with their pricing. I had only come out of a care home on the 26 April 2012 as I had undergone radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatment. I am not very well, not mobile and I feel they have taken advantage of me at a low point.”
Councillor Jacqui Rayment, Cabinet member for Environment and Transport at Southampton City Council said: “The people running and working for these companies targeted those people that they knew they could exploit, charging exorbitant sums of money to fund their own lifestyles. The full compensation received by the victims will hopefully help to bring closure to those who fell prey to these unscrupulous tradesmen.”
Lord Toby Harris, Chair of National Trading Standards, said: “Securing compensation for all 177 victims is an exceptional achievement and a testament to the hard work and determination of the investigators involved. The perpetrators targeted and exploited some of society’s most vulnerable people for the sole purpose of making money for themselves. This money has rightfully been returned to the victims.
“This case demonstrates that preying on vulnerable neighbourhoods and communities will not be tolerated – and that crime does not pay. We will continue to work with our partners in local trading standards departments to clamp down on criminals who target vulnerable people in their own homes.
“If you believe you, or someone you know, is being targeted like this you should report it to the Citizens Advice consumer service helpline by calling 03454 04 05 06.”
Rosie Zambra, Service Lead - Environment Street Scene & Health, Transactions and Universal Services said: “The support offered by our Regional Investigation Team and National Trading Standards was key to this investigation. It enabled Southampton City Council to investigate offending which took place over a number of years with victims spread across the south and southwest and helped to bring those responsible to court.”
The trial ran from January to June 2018.
The following were found guilty of the offences identified and sentenced as shown:
Joseph Rodney Ashford - Guilty of converting criminal property to the value of £1,513,467 contrary to Section 327(1) (c ) of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (‘money laundering’). The judge sentenced on the basis that the appropriate value for sentencing purposes was in the region of £20,000. 15 months imprisonment suspended for two years; 200 hours of unpaid work. £184,221.08 paid in compensation.
James Francis Dean - Guilty of converting criminal property to the value of £649,821 contrary to Section 327(1) (c ) of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (‘money laundering’). 12 months imprisonment suspended for two years; 180 hours of unpaid work. £80,000 paid in compensation.
Mark Grundy - 9 months imprisonment suspended for two years concurrent on 4 counts of fraud; 150 hours of unpaid work
Ryan Sivyour - 15 months imprisonment suspended for two years concurrent on 5 counts of fraud; 220 hours of unpaid work
Andrew Ashton - 18 months imprisonment suspended for two years concurrent of 5 counts of fraud; 220 hours of unpaid work. On 15 March 2019 Ashton was sentenced to 9 months imprisonment following a conviction for driving whilst disqualified and breach of the suspended sentence order.
Oliver Quinn - 6 months imprisonment suspended for two years concurrent on 2 counts of fraud; 100 hours of unpaid work
Jordan Easterbrook - Community Order for 12 months with unpaid work of 40 hours on I count of fraud
Craig Watton - 6 months imprisonment suspended for two years concurrent on 2 counts of fraud; 100 hours of unpaid work
Justin Brian Perry pleaded guilty in December 2016 to conspiracy to defraud. He was sentenced at a separate hearing to 30 months’ immediate imprisonment and paid £66,000 in compensation.
Grundy, Sivyour, Ashton, Quinn, Easterbrook and Watton were ordered to pay compensation totalling over £30,000.
The court was told that Ashford was a director of 1st Active Drainage Ltd and then its replacement company Fast Response Maintenance Ltd from 2010 to October 2013. In this time the companies earned over £11m and Trading Standards identified over 850 customer complaints.