Two men have been jailed following an investigation which started when a Mansfield woman took her own life after being hounded for thousands of pounds of bogus debt.
Kenneth Garvey, 38, was sentenced to four-and-a-half years and Bradley Lomas, 34, to three years, after they both pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation. A third man, Darren Cordock, 38, was given a suspended jail sentence after admitting helping the conmen.
The investigation was launched in July 2014 after a 47-year-old woman from the Mansfield area was found dead by her family. Notes left to her family explained how she had been pursued for debts relating to advertising companies in the Greater Manchester area which she did not believe she owed.
The police investigation identified a number of companies who had been sent large amounts of money prior to her death. Telecommunications evidence also established that prior to her death she had received vast amounts of telephone calls from Manchester-based companies and had been sent a number of invoices demanding money.
With the assistance of the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, a number of other victims were discovered around the United Kingdom. From their statements, officers were able to establish how the offenders operated; they began by contacting small business owners either trying to sell advertising in small publications or simply contacting them claiming they had already agreed to advertising and it was time to pay. These calls often came from withheld numbers and the offenders used a number of alias names.
In a number of cases where people had agreed to pay, they would receive further telephone calls from people who claimed to be bailiffs and court officers. These bogus officials would claim they were chasing an amalgamation of debts from a number of advertising companies and that the amount owed ran into thousands of pounds. Where people refused to pay or questioned the debts they were threatened with bailiffs attending their properties to take belongings to cover the value of the debt owed.
Another victim was a 78-year-old woman from Derbyshire, who acted as treasurer for her local social club. The relentless approach by the offenders led to her paying thousands of pounds out of the social club's account and personal accounts. None of the debts were found to be genuine and no advertising was actually provided.
Garvey, Lomas, and Cordock were sentenced when they appeared at Nottingham Crown Court on Wednesday September 28.
Garvey, of Blakeley, Manchester, ran number of companies including ‘Just Say No To Drugs’ and ‘PFA Community Safe’. Garvey was shown to have contacted the victims from various telephone numbers. Using a number of alias names and he convinced victims that he was trying to help them by getting their debts reduced.
Lomas, of Oldham, was deemed by the judge to have taken a significant role but was said to have been led by Garvey. Evidence from mobile phones showed clear collusion between Garvey and Lomas and in text messages they shared company information, described the roles they should play and what should be said to convince victims to send them money.
In sentencing Garvey and Lomas the Judge at Nottingham Crown Court made it clear to both their actions had not just caused financial hardship but had led to the death of a hardworking woman who was simply trying to assist her husband in running their family business. An inquest was held on October 28 and the coroner recorded a verdict that she took her own life.
Cordock, of Droyslden, Manchester, was sentenced to six months in prison, suspended for two years after he pleaded guilty to concealing criminal property after allowing a bank account and a limited company to be set up in his name which others later used for crime. He was also ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid community work.
A fourth man failed to attend court and a warrant has been issued by the court for his arrest.
DC Steve Owen, of the Serious and Organised Crime North team at Mansfield urged anyone who suspects a scam to report it.
"If you are contacted by someone and you think it is a scam or you are unsure, please call Action Fraud 0300 123 2040 or the Police on 101."