Justice served for 90 victims duped out of £30,000
Three men were today sentenced for their parts in a £30,000 fraudulent solar panel scheme. Roy John O’Grady (45) of Olton Road Solihull received 27 months imprisonment of which he will have to serve half before being considered for release on licence.Philip Mark Harris (49) of Kingsbridge Devon received a 12 months’ imprisonment suspended for 2 years and ordered to carry 200 hours community service. Julian Mark Attwood (45) of York Ave Bromsgrove received a sentence of 10 months imprisonment suspended for 2 years and 200 hours community service.
All three men were, in addition, banned from being a Company Director, with O’Grady being banned for 6 years and Harris and Attwood both for 5 years.
The defendants, trading as either Solar Energy Company UK Ltd or Solar 4 Free Ltd, offered ‘free solar panels’ deals to the public - duping consumers into handing over money for solar panel systems that never materialised. At a court hearing in January and February a jury found O’Grady guilty on 23 counts and Harris guilty on 11 counts of fraud. Attwood also pleaded guilty in January to 10 counts of fraud.
An investigation launched by the National Trading Standards Scambuster Team Central England identified a total of nearly 90 victims who had lost £30,000 between them.
Victims were caught out primarily through supplying their contact details to trade stands at shopping centres. Some victims reported receiving cold telephone calls to arrange appointments.
Victims across eight local authorities in the West Midlands were pressurised into paying between £250 and £395 for legal fees and Land Registry searches. They were then told that a third party investor would pay for the solar panels to be supplied and fitted to their home, that they would enjoy free electricity and that the investor would then receive the tariff payment from the National Grid on the surplus electricity generated.
However there was never a third party investor in place to pay for the installations, nor were the necessary legal work and searches ever carried out.
In addition some “free solar panels deal” customers were duped into buying a full solar panel system. They paid a £3,500 deposit towards the cost but never had any panels installed.
HHJ Bond in his summing up stated that: “Although the value of the frauds was not high this was a sophisticated, organised and persistent fraud carried on over a period of time.” He added that the offences had “afforded considerable detrimental effect on the victims who were not flush with money and who were upset to find that they had been lied to in their own homes and had been left feeling foolish at being taken in.” Addressing Roy O’Grady directly he stated that it was “obvious to me from the start of the trial that the reason you committed these offences was greed and as a heroin addict you were desperate for money”.
Lord Toby Harris, Chair, National Trading Standards said: “These criminals misled homeowners, leaving them out of pocket and I am pleased that they will be brought to justice. I congratulate all those who played a part in uncovering the breadth of this criminal activity.
“I urge everyone to think twice before agreeing to purchase products from cold callers and on-street salespeople – if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Always check references and credentials before paying out any money.
“If you are in any doubt, contact your local trading standards department or the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 04 05 06.”
Notes to Editors
Consumers within the following Local Authorities were affected by this scam: Birmingham, Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Solihull, Sandwell, Dudley, Walsall and Wolverhampton.
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 funds the Scambuster Teams that target rogue trading, doorstep crime and scams, providing support across England and Wales through eight regionally based teams:
1. Central England Trading Standards Authorities (CEnTSA)
2. North East Trading Standards Authorities (NETSA)
3. Trading Standards East Midlands (TSEM)
4. Trading Standards North West (TSNW)
5. 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)
6. Trading Standards Partnership South West (SWERCOTS)
7. Yorkshire and Humber Trading Standards Group (YAHTSG) and
8. Wales Heads of Trading Standards (WHoTS)
The CeNTSA team is hosted by Birmingham City Council on behalf of the 14 authorities that make up the Central England region which includes Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Herefordshire, Sandwell, Shropshire, Solihull, Staffordshire, Stoke on Trent, Telford & Wrekin, Walsall, Warwickshire, Wolverhampton and Worcestershire.
There are separate arrangements in place in Scotland.
For more information please visitwww.nationaltradingstandards.uk.