Payback time for ‘car matching’ con men
The director of a scam targeting private car sellers and uncovered with the help of the York-based Scambusters team, has been ordered to pay back a total £209,789.61 at Wood Green Crown Court.
Brannigan of 107 Brookshire South, East Barnet, was convicted in November 2011 for conspiracy to defraud. The victims were sold a bogus service which offered to put people selling cars in touch with identified local buyers, but did not do so. Brannigan was a director of three businesses called Motorshop, Motormarket and Motorplace which offered this ‘car matching’ service. He was sentenced to 24 months imprisonment and was disqualified from being a company director for eight years for his part in the conspiracy.
The value of the repayment order was calculated following the confiscation of assets acquired through Brannigan’s criminal conduct valued at £1,937,279.36, and the value of compensation owed to his victims totalling £5,982.43 which will be paid from the total confiscation sum.
Brannigan’s three co defendants had agreed confiscation payments at earlier hearings. Panayotis Christofi (given a 30 month prison sentence and disqualified from being a company director for eight years) was ordered to repay £10,318.89.
Sam Dimmock (sentenced to 18 months imprisonment and was disqualified from being a company director for two years) was ordered to repay £15.41. Cengiz Kemal (sentenced to an eight-month prison sentence, suspended for two years with an order to undertake 200 hours of unpaid work, and disqualified from being a company director for two years) was ordered to repay £7,361.69.
In late 2007, Trading Standards officers across the UK – including at City of York Council where an investigation started – began receiving complaints about these businesses. The complainants, who were individuals advertising cars and other vehicles for sale in local newspapers and car magazines, came from across the UK and gave almost identical accounts.
They claimed to have been ‘cold called’ by the company in a manner that suggested the salesperson was checking a database while claiming, for example, that there were a specific number of people in their area wanting to buy a vehicle like theirs. The sellers were then persuaded to pay to be connected to these buyers.
None of the customers who contacted Trading Standards said they had received any interest from prospective buyers after paying the fee. Many said that they had complained to the company but to no avail. Customers were repeatedly and incorrectly told that their right to cancel within seven days didn’t apply as the work had started immediately. If fact enquiries revealed that none of the 27,000 customers who bought the service received what they had paid for.
The Proceeds of Crime Act investigation was undertaken by officers from the North East Regional Asset Recovery Team and from Yorkshire and the Humber Regional Trading Standards’ Scambuster Team. The total criminal benefit to the four defendants from their illegal enterprise amounted to £4,779,857 and the confiscation orders represent the value of the assets that could be identified to repay their part in the criminality.
Councillor Linsay Cunningham-Cross, Cabinet Member for Crime and Community Safety for City of York Council which hosts the Regional Scambuster Team, said: “This is an excellent example of officers using their powers robustly and working in partnership with other agencies to reinforce the message that crime simply does not pay. Punishment for crimes does not now end with the closure of the cell door. The individuals who commit these crimes can expect their finances to be scrutinised and any assets they’ve acquired confiscated and returned to proper lawful use.”
Lord Toby Harris, Chairman of the National Trading Standards Board, the body responsible for Scambuster Teams, said: “The justice served today in Wood Green Crown Court goes to prove that the excellent NTSB's Scambuster teams are closing down on fraudsters. The extortionate amount that fraudsters take from innocent citizens is evidence that it is vital we continue our work.
“The scammers not only take peoples' money, the impact of being scammed can lead to the deterioration of the victim's mental health and put enormous pressure on the whole family due to financial detriment. It is vital the work of the Scambuster teams continue."
For more information about this case contact the regional Scambusters office on (insert regional number) or to speak to the National Trading Standards Board regarding a more general enquiry please contact the Trading Standards Institute press office on 0845 6089430 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to editors
The National Trading Standards Board (NTSB) is a group of senior and experienced local government heads of trading standards, representing all trading standards services across England and Wales. The Board has been set up by the Government as part of changes to the consumer protection landscape and an enhanced role for trading standards.
NTSB provides leadership influence, support and resources to help combat consumer and business detriment locally, regionally and nationally.
Scambusters is a NTSB funded project aimed at targeting rogue trading, doorstep crime and scams, providing a support across England and Wales through eight regionally based teams:
1. Central Trading Standards Authorities (CENTSA)
2. North East Trading Standards Authorities (NETSA)
3. Trading Standards East Midlands (TSEM)
4. Trading Standards North West (TSNW)
5. Tri Region Scambusters (TRS), on behalf of Trading Standards South East Ltd (TSSEL), East of England Trading Standards Association (EETSA) and London Trading Standards Association (LOTSA)
6. Trading Standards Partnership South West (SWERCOTS)
7. Yorkshire and the Humber Trading Standards Group (YAHTSG) and
8. The Wales Heads of Trading Standards (WHoTS)
There are separate arrangements in place in Scotland.
DATE: 04 October 2013