Three people at the heart of a country-wide council tax re-banding scam were today sentenced by His Honour Judge Kearl QC at Leeds Crown Court, following a year-long investigation and prosecution by the National Trading Standards Scambuster Team.
Jack Darrell HENRY (age 49) of Marion Street, Brighouse, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing in July at Leeds Crown Court to conspiracy to defraud customers through five council tax re-banding businesses – of which he was either a director or sole proprietor –and for money laundering offences. He was sentenced to 5 years and 10 months imprisonment and was disqualified as acting as a company director for 13 years. The total value of the fraud was estimated as over £250,000.
The other two defendants, Wendy Ann SMITH and John Charles BOON, had pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to defraud and money laundering, but had been convicted by a jury following a four-week trial in August.
Wendy Smith (age 29) of Southworth Street, Blackburn, acted as a salesperson for the company and was convicted of conspiracy to defraud the customers of Mr Henry’s businesses and money laundering. She was sentenced to 2 years imprisonment.
John Boon (age 59) of Park Spring Rise, Leeds, worked as the accountant for the businesses, and was acquitted of conspiracy to defraud but was found guilty of money laundering. He was sentenced to 6 months imprisonment suspended for two years.
Asif IQBAL (age 43) of Hall Bower, Huddersfield, was a director of another council tax re-banding business called Smartband Limited. He was a co-defendant in the trial and was charged with conspiracy to defraud and money laundering, and was found not guilty on either count.
Since February 2012, over 1,600 complaints had been received by Trading Standards departments throughout England about a number of businesses variously operating under the names ‘Council Tax Review’, ‘CTR’, ‘Reband UK Limited’, ‘Household Claims’ and ‘Smartband’. The businesses’ operations involved a representative door steppinghouseholders and claiming that they could lower their home’s Council Tax rating and therefore their Council Tax bills, for a fee of between £145 to £185. The contract with the customer also specified that if re-banding was successful, the business would be entitled to a percentage of the overpayment arrears refunded to the householder.
Customer complaints included:
- Having taken the initial payment, little or no work was undertaken by Henry’s businesses to ask the Valuation Agency (VOA) to re-band the property
- Where some work was undertaken, it was of such poor quality that the VOA rejected the application
- There were lengthy delays before any application to re-band was made. In these cases, customers often became disillusioned and sought to make the claim themselves. When these householders’ claims were successful , Henry’s businesses sought payment from the refund obtained
- Refusing to honour the householder’s cancellation and making demands for payment
- Being fobbed off by the businesses when querying why there had been no progress with their re-banding claim.
In passing sentence HHJ Kearl QC said to Henry “You induced the elderly to part with their money, making demands and making threats of a physical nature”. To Smith he said “You did whatever you did to get sales” and to Boon “You were the money man but a minor player”.
Councillor Tracey Simpson-Lang, City of York Council’s Cabinet Member for Homes and Safer Communities, said: “This was a widespread fraud which impacted on hundreds of householders, many of whom were elderly and vulnerable. Thanks to customers reporting their concerns to Trading Standards teams nationwide, a very complex and lengthy investigation by the specialist Scambuster team of Trading Standards investigators based in York, has lead to these criminals’ convictions. I congratulate the team on their work to protect innocent victims, for raising awareness of scams and for sending out the clear messages that conning consumers will not be tolerated.”
Lord Toby Harris, Chair of the National Trading Standards Board, said: “It is great news that this investigation and prosecution by the Scambusters Team has resulted in the perpetrators of this scam being brought to justice. These scammers preyed on innocent and vulnerable victims, often ripping them off for hundreds of pounds.
It is a priority for National Trading Standards to ensure the people behind criminal schemes such as this are brought to justice. That’s why we fund projects like Scambusters which work hard to protect people from these harmful scams.”
For more information about this case contact the regional Scambusters office on 01904 551565.
For more general enquiries regarding the National Trading Standards Board please call 020 7025 7570 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Notes to Editors
About the National Trading Standards Board
The National Trading Standards Board 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.
The National Trading Standards Board provides leadership influence, support and resources to help combat consumer and business detriment locally, regionally and nationally.
The National Trading Standards Board funds the Scambuster Teams that target rogue trading, doorstep crime and scams, providing support across England and Wales through eight regionally based teams:
Central England Trading Standards Authorities (CeNTSA)
North East Trading Standards Authorities (NETSA)
Trading Standards East Midlands (TSEM)
Trading Standards North West (TSNW)
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)
Trading Standards Partnership South West (SWERCOTS)
Yorkshire and Humber Trading Standards Group (YAHTSG) and
Wales Heads of Trading Standards (WHoTS)
There are separate arrangements in place in Scotland.