News item

Payback time for convicted company directors

Three company directors convicted of conspiracy to defraud have been ordered at Leeds Crown Court today (Friday 14 February) to pay back £209,655 for exploiting elderly and vulnerable customers of Compass Mobility Limited. 

This sentence follows an investigation under the Proceeds of Crime Act by the North East Regional Asset Recovery Team and the Yorkshire and the Humber Regional Trading Standards’ Scambuster Team. 

Vincent Andrew Watkinson (aged 51) of Bythorpe Road, Chesterfield was given a confiscation award of £18,661.49. He was ordered to hand over this amount within 6 months or face 12 months in prison.
Timothy Leonard Herbert Wright (aged 47) of Goldcrest Road, Sponden was ordered to hand over £4,700 within 6 months or face 3 months in prison.  He was also ordered to pay a total of £26,400 compensation to the victims and an ex employee

John Alexander Higginson (aged 63) of Locko Road, Lower Pilsley, Chesterfield was ordered to hand over £150,000 within six months or face 30 months in prison. He was also ordered to pay £9,893.68 prosecution costs.

Watkinson and Wright had each previously been sentenced to periods of five years imprisonment having been convicted of conspiracy to defraud the customers of Compass and a ‘phoenix company’, Reo Marketing Limited. Both were banned from being company directors for 15 years.

Higginson had previously been sentenced to two years imprisonment after pleading guilty to offences under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations.

Over the period of investigation (2007 to 2009) hundreds of enquiries and complaints concerning the mis-selling of mobility aids were recorded against Compass.

The defendants were arrested in February 2009 but following this, trading standards departments continued to receive complaints.

Examples of the fraudulent trading and mis-selling included:

  • failure to return deposits to customers who had legitimately cancelled their agreements
  • failure to either explain the terms of a credit agreement to a customer or persuading customers to sign a credit agreement when they did not appreciate that they had signed a credit application
  • sales persons refusing to leave elderly persons homes although being repeatedly asked to do so. In some instances customers just signed the agreement to get the sales person out of their home.

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 three defendants from their illegal enterprise amounted to £950,000 and the confiscation, compensation and costs orders represent the value of the assets that could be identified to repay their part in the criminality. 

Councillor Tracey Simpson-Laing, deputy leader of City of York Council which hosts the Regional Scambuster Team, said: “These individuals cynically exploited some of the most vulnerable members of our communities. I am pleased that in addition to receiving an appropriate punishment they now will lose any money they still have as a result of their appalling conduct, and will be forced to compensate victims.”

Lord Toby Harris, Chairman of the National Trading Standards Board, the body responsible for Scambuster Teams, said: "NTSB Scambusters teams throughout the country are vigilantly investigating individuals looking to exploit elderly and vulnerable consumers.  

Outcomes such as these send a message that schemes designed to defraud consumers will not be tolerated."

***ENDS***

For more information about this case contact the regional Scambusters office on 01904 551502 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 pressoffice@tsi.org.uk

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: 14 February 2014