Prison sentence for council tax scammer

A criminal who ran a council tax scam across the North West has been sentenced to two and a half years in prison following a recent hearing at Liverpool Crown Court (22 May).

Irfan Zafar and his partners Rizwan Zafar and Nadeem Shariff pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud on 4 March 2020 after tricking thousands of customers into believing they could reduce their council tax banding. 

Shahzad Hussain set up the company Dalton and Dalton Tax Consultants Limited. Irfan Zafar was the senior manager. Nadeem Sharif and Rizwan Zafar were company directors. The business cold-called prospective customers – many of whom were older people – and claimed that their homes were in the wrong council tax bracket.

Customers were misled into believing they had been hand-picked by the company because they were highly likely to succeed in an application for their property to be re-banded. If successful in a Council Tax Band Review, customers stood to receive a refund of back-dated council tax overpayments (potentially thousands of pounds) and a reduction in their future council tax payments. In reality, the actual prospect of customers seeing any success was at best a little over 1%.

The company positioned its staff as experts in their field; a one-stop-shop offering the expertise and knowledge of solicitors and property surveyors. Customers who responded to cold calls were visited by highly trained, commission-driven field sales agents who falsely claimed to have a proven success rate in council tax re-banding. Customers were charged an upfront one-off fee of £165 for the service. The company signed-up more than 7,000 customers, generating upfront fee payments of over £1 million.

In passing sentence the judge said that they were warned about claiming a 90% success rate when in reality it was close to zero, but continued.

Irfan Zafar also pleaded guilty to one charge of fraudulent trading after running a similar scheme through a different company. The sentences handed down include:

Irfan Zafar (guilty of two charges) was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment and two and a half years imprisonment to run concurrently

Nadeem Sharif (guilty of one charge) was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment suspended for two years. He was ordered to carry out 250 hours of community punishment and pay £5000 in prosecution costs

Rizwan Zafar (guilty of one charge) sentenced to15 months’ imprisonment suspended two years and ordered to carry out 250 hours community punishment.

The complex fraud investigation was carried out by National Trading Standards Regional North West Regional Trading Standards Team hosted by Cheshire West and Chester Council.

Lord Toby Harris, Chair of National Trading Standards, said:

“These individuals deliberately misled and exploited innocent victims by targeting them on their own doorsteps, applying highly pressurised sales tactics and making false claims to deceive them into parting with their money. These sentences should serve as a warning to anyone engaging in similar schemes – your actions will not be tolerated you could end up behind bars.

“I would like to congratulate all involved in bringing these criminals to justice – particularly for securing funds to return some of the lost monies to victims. If you suspect any similar cases of criminal trading, we urge you to report it to Trading Standards via the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0808 223 1133.”

In addition to today’s sentencing, the sum of £49,291.02 was voluntarily surrendered to Trading Standards. 

Notes to Editors

About National Trading Standards

National Trading Standards delivers national and regional consumer protection enforcement. Its Board is made up of senior and experienced heads of local government trading standards from around England and Wales with an independent Chair. Its purpose is to protect consumers and safeguard legitimate businesses by tackling serious national and regional consumer protection issues and organised criminality.