A managing director and four co-directors of a Derby-based company have today (Friday 28 October) been sentenced to a total of 15 and half years at Nottingham Crown Court for their part in a multi-million pound fraud involving the mis-selling of advertising space to companies across the UK and Europe.
The company – Wyvern Media – were based at Derby’s Wyvern Business Park and had another 11 offices across the Midlands and the south west. Employing around 250 people, it is estimated that the company had around 18,000 customers per year with an estimated annual turnover of £7m.
The sentences were as follows:
- Jonathan Louis Rivers (managing director) – age 55, from Dingle Lane, Coleshill, Birmingham, admitted one count of Fraudulent Trading contrary to Section 993 of the Companies Act 2006 and received a six-year sentence with a ten-year ban on being a director
- Andrew Simpson (publication director) – age 44, from Fieldgate Lane, Kenilworth, Warwickshire, admitted one count of Fraudulent Trading contrary to Section 993 of the Companies Act 2006 and received a 38-month sentence with a six-year ban on being a director
- Jagjeet Basra (publication director) – age 39, from Dewsbury Avenue, Tyvechale, Coventry, admitted one county of Fraudulent Trading contrary to Section 993 of the Companies Act 2006 and received a 40-month sentence with a six-ban on being a director
- Dennis Draper (publication director) – age 44, from Denton Close, Kenilworth, Warwickshire, admitted one charge of Fraudulent Trading contrary to Section 993 of the Companies Act 2006 and received a 20-month sentence with a three-year ban on being a director
- Joanne Soen (nee Spicer) (publication director) – aged 35, from Farm Crescent, Slough, admitted one count of Fraudulent Trading contrary to Section 993 of the Companies Act 2006 and received a two-year suspended sentence suspended for two years and a five-year ban on being a director
- Thomas Chamberlain (publication director) – aged 31, from Upper Eastern Green Lane, Coventry, admitted two counts of Fraudulent Trading contrary to Section 993 of the Companies Act 2006 and received a two-year suspended sentence suspended for two years with a five-year ban on being a director
- Matthew Walker (publication director) – aged 28, from Avenue Road, Leamington Spa, admitted two counts of Fraudulent Trading contrary to Section 993 of the Companies Act 2006 and received a 16-month sentence with a three-year ban on being a director
- Sarah Taylor, aged 30, from Thimblemill Road, Smethwick, admitted two counts of Fraud by false representation, contrary to section 1 and 2 of the Fraud Act 2006 and received a six-month suspended sentence suspended for two years
- Neisha Padan, aged 31, from Ferrers Close, Coventry, admitted one count of False Accounting, contrary to section 17 (1) (a) of the Theft Act 1968 and received a six-month suspended sentence suspended for two years
- Ricky Lal, aged 30 of 3 Stidfall Grove, Sydenham, Leamington Spa, has admitted two counts of Fraud by false representation, contrary to section 1 and 2 of the Fraud Act 2006 and received a three-month suspended sentence suspended for 12 months
Under the direction of Jonathan Rivers the company cold-called small companies to pressurise them into purchasing advertising space in its publications. This saw the defendants lie to businesses by using false distribution figures and misleading them into thinking their publications would be promoted at high profile events relevant to their business.
They also used aggressive selling techniques to secure sales, tended to be unclear about what publication they were representing and made unauthorised withdrawals from customers’ credit and debit card accounts.
One scam involved contacting businesses to announce they had won an award from a Wyvern Media publication but would only receive it and the associated advertising for a fee.
The investigation was the largest ever led by the National Trading Standards Scambuster Team (East Midlands), which is based at Nottinghamshire County Council.
More than five hundred complaints from 74 witnesses formed the basis of the prosecution and the highest amount lost by one business was £31,305. The team is hoping to recover up to £155,000 in proceeds of crime for 67 of the victims who have been unable to reclaim their losses.
- Jutta Patterson who ran Shropshire-based Birchhill Dog Rescue and lost £5,184 from this particular operation. The experience greatly affected Jutta’s health and she died aged 64 of lung cancer in 2015. The charity nearly closed in 2015 due to lack of funds.
- Foster carer Carol Boyd of Portishead, North Somerset, lost £6,610 in rent from her caravan by placing an advert in a Wyvern publication instead of the nationally recognised Dalton’s Weekly, which she used successfully previously. The loss meant she could no longer afford the caravan, which was used for holidays with her foster children and was subsidised by leasing it outside of school holidays.
- Former fish and chip shop owner Ken Eadon, from Dereham, Norfolk, lost £17,224. The stress of the experience led to him selling his business as he was unable to continue to run it, and it also led to the break-up of his long-term relationship with his partner.
- Polly Zabari from Oxshott, Surrey had a travel business which folded after a £5,898 loss.
Some of the charges relate to activities of three publication directors who set up their own separate publishing company that operated in a similar manner, namely:
- Jagjeet Basra, 39, from Coventry
- Matthew Walker, 28, from Leamington Spa
- Thomas Chamberlain, 31, from Coventry.
Councillor Glynn Gilfoyle, Chair of Nottinghamshire County Council’s Communittee Safety Committee, said:
“We’ve been preparing this mammoth and complicated case for over five years and I’d like to pay tribute to the hard work and persistence of our experienced investigators which has led to Jonathan Rivers and key directors receiving significant prison sentences for their part in this sickening operation.
“Many of the victims lost their businesses over this scam and included small charities that work hard for good causes. For some victims the sheer harrassment in hourly cold calls made them ill.
“A common technique was claiming they were from ‘The Telegraph’ when they were really talking about their poor quality South East Telegraph publication.
“We are yet to meet a business that made one single sale from an advertisement in a Wyvern Media publication, which demonstrates their poor distribution methods.
“We will now be seeking to hit those involved where it hurts by seizing assets to help compensate some of the victims for their financial losses.
“We urge businesses to place adverts in reputable publications and not to be put under pressure from any advertising salesperson, no matter how good the deal sounds.”
Lord Toby Harris, Chair, National Trading Standards, said:
“This scheme was created with the sole purpose of cheating small businesses out of large sums of money and forced a number of honest businesses – including small charities – to go under. I would like to congratulate all involved in bringing these criminals to justice – these sentences send a strong signal that we will not tolerate dishonest practices and are committed to safeguarding honest businesses.
“We urge business-owners to steer clear of these scams – if you are in any doubt whatsoever then do not get involved. If you think you have identified a scam or have been a victim of such a scheme, you should report it to Action Fraud: www.actionfraud.police.uk or call 0300 123 2040.”
Wyvern Media had offices in the following locations:
• Leamington Spa
Notes to Editors
For more information about this case contact the National Trading Standards Scambuster Team East Midlands team on Peter Saunders at Nottinghamshire County Council on 0115 9773379 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
For more general enquiries regarding National Trading Standards please call 020 7025 7570 or email email@example.com.
About National Trading Standards
National Trading Standards 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.
National Trading Standards 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).