Rogue trader jailed for failing to pay back proceeds of crime money
Any rogue trader will go to prison if they don’t pay back proceeds of crime money – and will still have to pay back the money.
That’s the message from Powys County Council’s trading standards service after a Carmarthenshire rogue trader was jailed for 19 months after they failed to pay money back to victims of his rogue trading.
Richard Victor Rees, of 12 Pemberton Avenue, Burry Port, Carmarthenshire, attended Swansea Magistrates Court on Wednesday 24 September. He appeared before District Judge Richard Williams in an enforcement hearing to answer why he had not paid monies to victims and Powys County Council’s costs, as ordered by Merthyr Tydfil Crown Court.
This latest enforcement hearing was linked to a Proceeds of Crime investigation following a successful prosecution of Rees for targeting vulnerable elderly people.
In February 2014, Merthyr Tydfil Crown Court ordered the handing over of approximately £80,000 of the trader’s assets to be paid as compensation to 16 sets of victims who the trader had taken money off. The court ordered that the order must be paid in six months and that a default sentence of 19 months imprisonment would be imposed if it was not paid in the time period laid out.
In the same hearing, the court also ordered the trader to pay approximately £41,000 in costs within six months after an application from the council’s trading standards service. These costs also being the cost of the original investigation.
The Proceeds of Crime action took place after the trader was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment, suspended for two years, in August 2012, for using aggressive commercial practices across Powys and parts of south Wales. The trader had pleaded guilty to seven charges including ‘Aggressive Commercial Practices’ offences under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations in April 2012.
At the hearing on Wednesday 24 September, the council’s trading standards service was represented by David Webster of Apex Chambers and Rees was represented by Helen Randall of Iscoed Chambers.
Ms Randall made a verbal application under s77 of the Magistrates Court Act 1980 on the basis that more time was needed by recently instructed solicitors.
However, District Judge Richard Williams dismissed the application saying that s77 applied to financial orders made in the Magistrates Court and as the confiscation order was made in the Crown Court, he had no jurisdiction to do otherwise than impose the default sentence.
He also stated that all appeals to date had been dismissed and as there were no live proceedings before a court of jurisdiction at present, the 19 month sentence must be imposed. With the sentence being imposed, Mr Rees was taken away to start his sentence in jail.
Cllr John Powell, the council’s Cabinet Member responsible for trading standards, said: "We support legitimate businesses and local tax payers by targeting illegal shadow economy activities like rogue trading, and those who have little regard to the vulnerable in our society.
“We are pleased the court imposed the full sentence default of 19 months prison as this is a further deterrent to criminals and we will pursue this money until we get it for victims.”
Clive Jones, the council's Professional Lead for Trading Standards, said: “Firm action is needed on any issues related to rogue trading to promote fair trading within our community and to pursue all this money back for victims and local authorities who have investigated. We also have to take the criminal benefit away from those that trade criminally.
“In this case the £80,000 confiscation will go back to the victims who were traumatised by the activities of this trader which is clearly some form of justice to the harm caused.
“We would like to thank Dyfed Powys Police’s Financial Investigation Team for their help in achieving this outcome and Scambusters Wales who helped in the original action. We see such actions as a clear deterrent to any that attempt these illegal ventures and financial investigation is now an important part of our toolkit to deal with offenders.”
Matthew Cridland, the Wales Scambusters Project Manager at Newport City Council, explained: “The Scam Busters Team is pleased with the robust enforcement action taken by Powys Trading Standards. Scambusters is committed to targeting rogue trading across Wales and successful partnership working, as has been demonstrated with Operation Diamond, is the cornerstone of its efforts.”
The council's Trading Standards Service can be contacted on Brecon 01874 623420; Llandrindod Wells 01597 826032; Newtown 01686 617524. Alternatively email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.powys.gov.uk/tradingstandards
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DATE: 29 September 2014