Tower Hamlets Council and trading standards prosecute LGV training fraud case at the Old Bailey
A gang of fraudsters who cheated customers out of hundreds of thousands of pounds using a lorry driver training scam were sentenced at the Old Bailey.
In a case brought by Tower Hamlets Council Legal Services on behalf of the council’s Trading Standards in conjunction with the National Trading Standards Board (NTSB) funded Tri-Region Scambusters and National E-Crime Centre teams, four men have been convicted of a Large Goods Vehicle (LGV) training fraud worth over £1million.
On 24 February 2014, Mohammed Shuab Miah, 28, Ponler Street, Tower Hamlets; Mohammed Saidur Rahman, 27, of Bigland Street, Tower Hamlets and Simon Brindley, 46, of Kensington Road, South-End-on Sea, were found guilty at the Old Bailey on four counts of fraudulent trading contrary to s.993 of the Companies Act 2006. Sheikh Muhammad Osama Rahman, 27, of Penang Street, Tower Hamlets, had pleaded guilty to four fraudulent trading offences before the trial began.
A fifth defendant, Amzad Ali, 27, also from Tower Hamlets was acquitted of all charges.
At a hearing on 25 February at the Old Bailey, before Hon Judge Bevan, the following sentences were given:
- Sheikh Muhammad Osama Rahman was sentenced to six years and four months imprisonment and given a 12 year Director Disqualification Order;
- Mohammed Shuab Miah was sentenced to four and a half years imprisonment and a five year Director Disqualification Order;
- Mohammed Saidur Rahman was sentenced to four and a half years imprisonment and a ten year director Disqualification Order;
Simon Brindley was sentenced to four and a half years imprisonment and a ten year Director Disqualification Order.
Simon Brindley had already been convicted of similar crimes by Enfield Council and had been jailed for 16 months at Wood Green Crown Court on Friday, 13 December, for his involvement with LGV training company Fast Track HGV Limited which operated from Mount Pleasant, Cockfosters.
The gang had carried out the fraud through a number of LGV training businesses based in Canary Wharf between November 2009 and September 2012. The training companies traded at various times over the period as Highway LGV Limited, LGV Specialist Limited, Blackwater LGV Limited and Quickpass LGV Limited.
Each of the companies ran by these men conned customers into paying for LGV training through a variety of false representations, including the location of training courses, the time frame within which practical training would be provided and employment prospects.
The people affected typically bought training courses to obtain a LGV license priced between £1,000-£3,000. Many of the victims were unemployed and were looking to re-train as LGV drivers in the hope of gaining new employment - those who could least afford to lose significant sums of money.
The total income of these four companies is estimated to be in excess of £1m. There was just approximately £44,250 spent on training their customers, who had paid them in the expectation that they would receive the total training package they had paid for.
The training was supposed to cover a theory test followed by practical driving experience at specified training locations. The first part of the training was generally met with the completion of the theory element of the process, which cost the company a minimal amount to organise. The problems began when the customer wanted to book their practical training. At that point the customer would be presented with a multitude of excuses as to why the practical training could not be commenced. Examples included that the certificate confirming that the candidate had passed theory test had not been received, customer details were lost or there were strikes at the Driving Standards Agency (DSA).
The fraud was backed by sophisticated marketing in the form of very professional looking websites and brochures, giving the customer the impression that they would be dealing with a legitimate company, who would not only be able to offer training but also employment opportunities once the customer had qualified. The problem was that the training rarely materialised.
In a trial lasting six weeks, the jury heard from over 15 witnesses from all over the UK who had been duped into purchasing LGV training from the defendants. Judge Bevan described the fraud as a “cynical ploy” and later summed up by saying “On your own evidence you knew each other for years and must have known that each was prepared to act with disregard for victims. Another similarity is the desire to make easy money at the expense of other people. You are now and appear to remain contemptuous of your victims and any mitigation pales into insignificance in relation to loss deliberately caused to others” Judge Bevan also disqualified them for being company Directors for between five and 12 years describing them as “entirely unfit”.
The fraud was identified by Tower Hamlets Trading Standards following concerns about the number of complaints they were receiving about the businesses registered to the defendants. The prosecution follows a long investigation carried out by Tower Hamlets Trading Standards, which started in June 2010.
Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman, said: "This case highlights the hard work of our Trading Standards team and agency partners in pursuing consumer complaints and prosecuting perpetrators of fraud to the highest level when necessary.
“The victims of these fraudsters included the unemployed and it was despicable that they were taking money from those who need it most.”
Deputy Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Cllr Ohid Ahmed, said: “This case was a calculated and deceitful fraud which preyed upon vulnerable people. There is no place for such fraudulent trading in Tower Hamlets and Trading Standards will continue to investigate companies to the full who arouse suspicion from their customers.”
NTSB chairman, Lord Toby Harris, said "Despite facing budget cuts, trading standards have tremendous community value as they protect consumers from insidious fraudsters. Today's sentencing shows that no matter how sophisticated the scam, trading standards professionals will bring criminals to justice."
To report suspected training scams or concerns about a company’s trading activities contact Tower Hamlets Council's Trading Standards Team on 020 7364 5008.
For more information contact Sarah McLaughlin on 020 7364 2860 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to editors
Company trading dates:
Highway LGV Limited was the first company and was incorporated in 2009, its director was Sheikh Rahman. LGV Specialist Limited is the second company, it was incorporated a year after Highway on the 5 November 2010, its director was Mohammed Shuab Miah. Blackwater LGV Limited is the third company, the director was Amzad Ali and it was incorporated in March 2011, Blackwater traded for the shortest period of all four companies, between the Spring and early winter of 2011. Finally, Quick Pass LGV Limited was the last company in time and was incorporated on 16 November 2011, the director was Mohammed Saidur Rahman.
National Trading Standards Board
The National Trading Standards Board (NTSB) represents all trading standards services across England and Wales. The Board was established by the Government to improve the enforcement of laws intended to tackle rogue traders operating both regionally and nationally who are causing harm to consumers and legitimate businesses. The NTSB issues grants and funds national and regional initiatives such as Scambusters, the Illegal Money Lending Team and the e-Crime Unit.
Driver licensing requirements:
For driver licensing, lorries are called Large Goods Vehicles (LGVs) and buses or coaches are called Passenger Carrying Vehicles (PCVs).
Before you can train to become a LGV or PCV driver you must normally be aged over 18 and hold a full car licence (category B entitlement).
The type of driving licence entitlement you need depends on the ‘maximum authorised mass’ (MAM) of the vehicle you want to drive.
The MAM is the total vehicle weight plus the maximum load it can carry:
- vehicles with a MAM of more than 3.5 tonnes but no more than 7.5 tonnes need a C1 licence
- vehicles with a MAM of more than 7.5 tonnes need a category C licence (also known as Class 2) is needed. Drivers must normally be aged over 21 and hold a full (not provisional) category B entitlement (car) before they can take a:
- Large goods vehicle (LGV) test or a
- Passenger carrying vehicle (PCV) test
To add a trailer entitlement (+E) to their licence, they will need to hold the full category entitlement for the vehicle before they take the trailer test.
For example, to drive an articulated vehicle, they would need to pass category C (Class 2), and then pass category C+E (Class 1)to obtain the required licence.
To become a professional driver it is important to have the correct training and instruction before taking the practical test.
To obtain a licence to drive a lorry and/or bus candidates will have to pass the following tests/examinations:
1) A medical examination to ensure that they are fit to drive
2) Theory and hazard perception tests
3) Practical driving test; and
The Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (Driver CPC) This will consist of an initial Driver CPC (there is an exemption for this element for full licence holders prior to 1997) , followed by a periodic Driver CPC requiring drivers to undertake 35 hours of tuition and training over a five year period.
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 England 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 Humber Trading Standards Group (YAHTSG) and
8. Wales Heads of Trading Standards (WHoTS)
There are separate arrangements in place in Scotland.
DATE: 27 February 2014