A husband and wife from Leeds convicted of consumer protection offences against vulnerable people have been ordered to pay back £917,287 under the Proceeds of Crime Act following a hearing at Leeds Crown Court.
Claire Wray (aged 38) and Paul Wray (aged 51, both of Clayton Wood Close, Leeds) both received prison sentences in March 2017 following their convictions. They mis-sold mattresses, beds and mobility equipment to elderly consumers through their company Dreamwell Limited.
Claire Wray, the sole director of the company, received 12 months in prison after being found guilty of misleading, banned and aggressive commercial practices, and money laundering. She was also disqualified from being a company director for seven years. Her husband, Paul Wray, company secretary for Dreamwell Ltd, was sentenced to 28 months imprisonment for illegal commercial practices in July 2016 and was disqualified from being a company director for nine years.
Recorder Iqbal QCordered that the proceeds of crime confiscation order is to be paid within 3 months or the Wrays would face a further 6 years imprisonment. He also ordered that compensation totalling £20,757 was to be paid to the Wray’s victims from the confiscated monies.
The couple were arrested on 9 December 2014 following over 50 complaints which triggered an extensive operation over an 18-month period by the National Trading Standards Yorkshire & the Humber Regional Investigations Team, based at City of York Council and the North East Regional Asset Recovery Team based with West Yorkshire.
Investigators found that canvassers acting on behalf of Dreamwell misled elderly consumers into believing that they were carrying out market research, when in fact they were arranging appointments for sales staff to visit them in their own homes.
Consumers were then convinced to give information about their medical history, which was later used by sales staff to mis-sell mobility-related products. Staff created the impression that Dreamwell Ltd was a company with medical credentials or connected to a healthcare body, when it was actually a business acting with a purely commercial intent.
Sales staff were trained by Paul Wray to engage in aggressive commercial practices to sell mobility-related products. In one instance, the salesperson stayed in the consumer’s home for 6.5 hours. Sales staff took advantage of the frailty and vulnerability of their customers, even visiting consumers with dementia and Alzheimer’s. The investigation found that the products sold were unnecessary, unsuitable and expensive.
Lord Toby Harris, Chair, National Trading Standards, said: “I am pleased that the hard work of the National Trading Standards Regional Investigations Team has led to this substantial award under the Proceeds of Crime Act. This award, alongside the prison sentences previous handed down, sends a clear message to criminals that crime does not pay and these sorts of deliberate attempts to deceive consumers – many of whom were in vulnerable situations – will not be tolerated.
“I urge anyone who is suspicious of salespeople in their neighbourhood or is concerned they may be being defrauded to contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 040506.”
Councillor Ann Reid, executive member for Trading Standards at City of York Council, said: “The determined pursuit of this couple by our investigations experts, the Wrays’ sentences and now recouping the proceeds of crime are powerful deterrents to would-be criminals.”
Notes to Editors
For more information about this case contact Megan Rule, Senior Communications Manager at City of York Council on 01904 552017.
For more general enquiries regarding National Trading Standards please call 020 7025 7570 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Notes to Editors
About National Trading Standards
-National Trading Standards provides leadership influence, support and resources to help combat consumer and business detriment locally, regionally and nationally
-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.
-National Trading Standards teams are based within local authority trading standards services
For more information please visit www.nationaltradingstandards.uk
For media enquiries about National Trading Standards please call 020 7025 7570 or e-mail email@example.com.