A mobile fish seller who scammed vulnerable victims has today been sentenced to 5 years and 7 months.
A mobile fish seller who defrauded elderly and vulnerable people out of £246,000 has been sentenced to 5 years and 7 months today at Teesside Crown Court.
Craig Henderson, 51, of South Street, Chester-Le-Street, County Durham, targeted victims as old as 105* using aggressive, manipulative and unfair selling and business practices. Victims across England were pressured in their homes into paying exorbitant prices for fish that was often unfit for human consumption.
In some cases, payment was taken without permission and many victims were not told the price of the fish until it was already in their freezer. Most of Henderson's victims were retired, with many living alone or suffering from serious health conditions.
Mr Henderson was also handed an indefinite Criminal Behaviour Order, preventing him from doorstep selling.
Mr Henderson, who used various trading names including Scotland’s Finest, Atlantic Fisheries and North Atlantic Fresh Fish, was convicted following a prosecution taken by Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council after an investigation by the National Trading Standards North East Regional Investigation Team.
The crimes were carried out between November 2017 and June 2021 and Mr Henderson pleaded guilty to fraudulent trading at Teesside Crown Court on 4 May 2022. He has six previous convictions for 62 offences.
Mr Henderson was warned repeatedly about his behaviour and offered support to help him meet his legal responsibilities. After complaints about him persisted, an investigation found that Henderson:
- Sold fish at exorbitantly high prices, primarily to older people
- Pressurised victims into making a purchase by placing the fish in the victim’s freezer without being asked to do so
- Misused his card processing terminal by keying in incorrect payment information
- Used vehicles with trader signage not linked to his business to give his customers confidence and enhance his credibility
- Continued to operate during the first Covid-19 lockdown, taking advantage of the fact that many older people were finding it difficult to get to the shops
- Became threatening when challenged.
Henderson had no food safety procedures in place and broke the law by failing to properly record the temperature at which the fish was stored, label what the fish was and where it had come from, or provide use-by dates. One victim described the fish as appearing ‘unhygienic with lots of flies around it.’ Some victims claim they became unwell after eating the fish and many threw their fish away.
110 victims provided a statement, though it is believed Henderson was offending on a much larger scale. Victims describe feeling coerced, conned and foolish. One person was targeted four times and “felt obliged to buy due to his intimidating nature”. On each occasion, she was home alone and only bought fish to get him to leave. Another described how Henderson offered to drive her to a cash machine – after cooking one of the packs of fish she bought, she had to throw the other 13 away. Another victim described how she paid £370 for 36 packs of unlabelled fish which she had no chance to inspect after Henderson entered her home uninvited.
Eight other mobile fish sellers from the North East have been identified, convicted and sentenced after prosecutions brought by Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council, following investigations by the National Trading Standards North East Regional Investigation Team.
Lord Michael Bichard, Chair, National Trading Standards, said:
“Threatening older victims – including at least one aged over 100 – and intimidating them in their own homes shows utter cowardice. Many victims were repeatedly targeted, giving the defendant money they could not afford to lose, just to make him go away.
“Once again our team in the North East – who have carried out a number of prosecutions against illegal fish sellers – have stopped a ruthless individual in his tracks and prevented untold further harm. I’m proud of everyone involved for their relentless efforts to identify and bring these criminals to justice.
“If you have been a victim or know someone who has, you should report it to the Citizens Advice consumer service helpline by calling 0808 223 1133. That way we can stop this happening in your neighbourhood.”
Notes to Editors
For more information, please contact the National Trading Standards press office by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 020 7101 5013
*One victim was in the 95-105 age bracket; one was in the 105-115 age bracket.
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 and by providing a “safety net” to limit unsafe consumer goods entering the UK and protecting food supplies by ensuring the animal feed chain is safe.