04 Nov 2016

Community Safety and Licensing

Alarm fraudster sent to prison

A cold calling criminal who conned elderly and vulnerable people out of over £150,000 has been sentenced to five years imprisonment today and disqualified from being a company director for eight years for his part in a fraudulent home alarm business.

Daniel Jody Rivers aged 34 from Yatton, Somerset, a director of Approved Home Business Group (ABHG) Ltd and also trading as Homeguard UK, was found guilty of fraud and breaching consumer protection legislation by a jury at Bristol Crown Court on Thursday 22 September 2016 at the end of a two week trial.

A lengthy investigation by the National Trading Standards Scambuster Team South West, hosted by Bristol City Council, found more than 90 alarm systems were installed by ABHG Ltd during 2013 and early 2014 throughout South Wales, Bristol, North Somerset and Devon. On average victims paid between £2,500 and £3,000 for the system installation.

ABHG Ltd would typically cold call victims at their home, either in person or by phone. Many of the victims were elderly, lived alone and were vulnerable to high pressure sales techniques.

Victims were falsely informed that Rivers’ company was working with the local police and they were installing alarm systems either free of charge or at a reduced rate for their post code area.

Some were even told that they lived in an area with high levels of crime and without the alarm system they would be left exposed.

Others were persuaded to have existing working alarm systems deactivated in order to have a new alarm system fitted by ABHG.

In almost all cases following installation, faults with the alarm systems resulted in them not working, following which victims experienced difficulty contacting the company.

At best they received poor instructions over the phone as to how to remedy the faults and at worst they were unable to make any contact at all.

In many cases victims had their systems either removed and replaced, or repaired at their own expense. In a few cases ABHG removed the system but did not refund any money.

On sentencing His Honour Judge Longman said: “I am satisfied that you targeted elderly victims and that you were the controlling mind and brainchild. You chose to plead not guilty to the majority of offences involving many witnesses having to travel long distances to attend court, give evidence and be cross examined.”

Lord Toby Harris, Chair, National Trading Standards, said: “These criminals knowingly deceived vulnerable people out of thousands of pounds. I hope this sentence sends a clear message that National Trading Standards and our Scambuster teams are working hard to ensure those undertaking this sort of criminal activity are brought to justice.

“I would urge people to think twice before agreeing to purchase products and services from cold callers. Always check references and credentials before paying out any money and if you are in any doubt, contact your local trading standards department or the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 040506.”

Fi Hance, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Trading Standards at Bristol City Council, host authority to the South West Scambusters Team, said: “Many of the victims lived alone, were elderly and vulnerable.  Today’s sentence fully reflects the seriousness and extent of Rivers’ callous exploitation of those poor victims he deliberately targeted. I would like to send my heart-felt thanks and sympathy to those victims coming forward to provide the crucial evidence in crown court necessary to secure this conviction. I would also like to pass on my thanks to the Scambusters team for such a thorough investigation which has brought about such a successful result.”