Four leading figures of a multi-million pound fraud involving a Derby-based company mis-selling advertising space have been ordered to hand over a combined £1.3m from their ill-gotten gains at a Nottingham Crown Court hearing today (Friday 12 May).
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 investigation was the largest ever led by the National Trading Standards Regional Investigation Team (East Midlands), which is based at Nottinghamshire County Council.
The Confiscation Orders have been made under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 and are to be paid within a three-month period, otherwise the defendants will face further prison sentences ( including a potential further ten years in prison in the case of Jonathan Louis Rivers.)
The amounts confiscated from the leading figures are as follows:
- £1,216,305 from Jonathan Louis Rivers (managing director) – age 55, from Dingle Lane, Coleshill, Birmingham
- £93,911 from Keira Byrne – age 32 from Clark Street, Bell Green, Coventry
- £9,047 Jagjeet Basra (publication director) – age 39, from Dewsbury Avenue, Tyvechale, Coventry,
- £305 Matthew Walker (publication director) – aged 28, from Avenue Road, Leamington Spa.
The orders made have stripped them of the assets they have gained through their crimes and include properties and a large investment pension account valued at over £650,000 belonging to Rivers.
The money will be paid to the victims, Government, the courts and National Trading Standards to be invested in other criminal investigations. Jonathan Louis Rivers was also ordered to pay an additional £30,000 to cover court costs.
Rivers and four co-directors were sentenced to a total of 15 and half years at Nottingham Crown Court for their part in the operation last October.
Wyvern media publication director Thomas Chamberlain – aged 31, from Upper Eastern Green Lane, Coventry – was previously ordered to pay £121,688 from his assets gained through his part in the operation last October along with Dennis Draper - publication director aged 44, from Denton Close, Kenilworth, Warwickshire - who was ordered to £1,250 from his assets.
This brings the total amount of ill-gotten gains seized as part of this case to almost £1.5m so far. A further proceeds of crime hearing involving other publication directors is set to take place in June.
James Delaney, manager of the regional investigation team, said: “It is pleasing that we have been able to compensate the victims of this case for their significant losses by forcing the criminals involved to hand over their assets gained from the fraud, which is very much an extra punishment for them.
“Some of the victims lost their homes and businesses over their involvement with Wyvern Media and this result goes some way to helping them to rebuild their lives.
“Although we will never be able to make up for the upset and distress caused by Wyvern Media, the leading figures involved in this hearing today haven't been able to gain from their ill-gotten earnings and a further proceeds of crime hearing is to follow next month.”
The company cold called customers using improper pressure sales methods to induce customers into agreeing to buy advertisement that were mis-sold or of poor quality.
In total more than 500 complaints were made against the company, of which 74 witnesses formed the basis of the prosecution, the highest individual loss amounting to £31,305.00.
Under the direction of Rivers, the organisation 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.
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 funds the Regional Investigations 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)
There are separate arrangements in place in Scotland.
- For more information please visit www.nationaltradingstandards.uk.