A criminal who misled and pressurised elderly and vulnerable people into paying for advertising worth £88,239 has received a 22-month suspended sentence at Nottingham Crown Court today (Thursday 9 February).
Barbara Stone, 62, from Leicester, pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud by false representation contrary to the Fraud Act 2006. The prosecution relates to her time as a sales representative for Leicester-based Aspire magazine.
The first count relates to a £74,139 loss experienced by John Moyle and Olga Moyle from January 2010 to November 2012 due to misleading claims made by Stone that advertising payments would be refunded by a sponsor.
In 2010, John Moyle, from Cleeton St Mary in Shropshire, was trying to advertise his small holiday home in the south of France as a short-term holiday let to pay for its upkeep of around £5,000 per annum.
He was cold called and sold an initial advert by Barbara Stone for Aspire magazine before he was bombarded with sales calls and pressurised into taking more adverts in Aspire. He was also targeted by the Wyvern Media Group and lost a total of £97,024 from placing adverts with both companies. He later died in April 2015 aged 83.
Daughter Frances Moyle said: “In 2010, my father was caring for my very ill mother. He was struggling to find ways to make ends meet. One would hope that we live in a society where help and support is extended to the elderly. Instead my frail father was targeted and subjected to high pressure, invasive selling techniques, considerable duress and fraudulent tactics that led to the loss of all his savings and saw the last days of my mother’s life marred by stress and fear.
“A man who had been so careful with money all his life was plunged into so much debt that he was forced to sell the home he and my mother had shared for 50 years. Being targeted by Barbara Stone and then Wyvern media had the most devastating and ruinous effect on our family.
“I believe that the relentless, daily telephone calls to which they became enthralled deprived my parents of normal life at a time when they most needed calm security and peace and quiet. I feel equally sure that the realisation that they had lost such a vast sum of money hastened my mother’s death in February 2011. My poor father never recovered from the events of that year which cast a shadow over the end of his life, and continue to cast a shadow over mine.”
The second count relates to a £14,100 loss experienced by Jutta Patterson of Birch Hill Dog Rescue from November 2011 to January 2012 due to misleading claims relating to advertising and a sponsor for an advertising campaign in Aspire magazine.
Jutta was led to believe that a sponsor would fund an advertising campaign on behalf of the dog charity and the magazine would publish advertising for a year at a cost of £6,000, neither of which materialised.
Birch Hill Dog Rescue, which is based in Cleobury Mortimer in Shropshire and has been running for 20 years, was owned by Terry and Jutta Patterson, who also lost £5,184 from the Wyvern Media advertising operation. Jutta died aged 64 of lung cancer in May 2015.
Wendy Watts, a volunteer and trustee of the charity, said: “We are still fighting on the sake of the dogs and to keep Jutta’s legacy alive but the impact of this fraud has devastated the charity and all of us involved.
“We feel the massive stress brought on Jutta’s cancer – she died two days after her diagnosis. The dogs always came first with Jutta so she kept it to herself. It’s only after her death that we found out about how deep this whole thing became.”
Councillor Glynn Gilfoyle, Chair of Nottinghamshire County Council’s Community Safety Committee, said: “Barbara Stone was relentless with her sales calls to Jutta Patterson and John Moyle and would start ringing them as early as 7.45am and were followed by several calls throughout the day.
“Both were vulnerable people and despite their pleas that they couldn’t afford any more advertising Stone persisted, and even resorted to lies about a sponsor who would refund costs to drain more money from them.
“The loss was so huge to John Moyle that he lost all the money he had taken from the equity in his family home and was forced to sell it.
“Sadly, neither Jutta or John were present at court when Stone was sentenced for her heartless actions as they are no longer with us.
“Stone’s suspended sentence is the conclusion to the largest case that Nottinghamshire County Council’s Trading Standards team has ever led on.
“This case sends out a clear message that misleading and aggressive sales techniques will not be tolerated and justice will be sought for victims of such crimes.”
Barbara Stone also worked for the Wyvern Media Group, whose directors were prosecuted and sentenced to 15 and a half years in prison in October 2016 for their part in a multi-million pound fraud – their crimes involved the mis-selling of advertising space to companies across the UK and Europe*.
Keira Byrne, 32 from Clark Street, Bell Green, Coventry, who was a publication director for Wyvern Media, also received a 23-month suspended sentence and a three-year directorship ban at the hearing after admitting one count of Fraudulent Trading contrary to Section 993 of the Companies Act 2006 in relation to her role at Wyvern Media.
Lord Toby Harris, Chair, National Trading Standards, said: “These criminals cheated honest, hardworking people out of large sums of money and left a legacy of heartache and financial burden that will be felt for years to come. I would like to thank all involved in bringing these criminals to justice – these sentences send a strong signal that we will not tolerate dishonest practices and are committed to safeguarding individuals and honest businesses.
“We urge small business-owners to steer clear of these scams – if you are in any doubt whatsoever then do not get involved. If you think you have identified a scam or have been a victim of such a scheme, you should report it to Action Fraud: www.actionfraud.police.uk or call 0300 123 2040.”
Notes to Editors
For more information about this case contact Peter Saunders at Nottinghamshire County Council on 0115 9773379 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
*More information on that case is available here: http://www.nationaltradingstandards.uk/news/criminals-sentenced-to-15-years-following-multimillion-pound-advertising-fraud/
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.
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