Bedfordshire fraudster jailed for over 4-years

21/03/2012

A couple who published ancient music went bankrupt after being the victims of a million pound scam by the man who sold them photocopiers.

Clifford and Elaine Bartlett's company, King's Music, was destroyed by salesman Gary Carr who made £400,000 in a little over a year.

During the fraud the couple's two severely mentally handicapped adult children were persuaded to waive their right of residence to the family home - Redcroft, Whyton in Huntingdon as it was used as security for a consolidation loan as the family finances deteriorated.

Mr Barlett, aged 70, and his 63-year-old wife went bankrupt with creditors being owed £679,535.

Another victim of the fraud was estate agent Peter Lane, who is also based Huntingdon.  He ended up in an Independent Voluntary Agreement with his creditors in which he has to repay £300,000 over 5-years.  The 63-year-old used all his life savings in civil cases to avoid bankruptcy.

At Luton Crown Court, photocopier salesman Carr, 49, of Regent Street, Stotfold, Bedfordshire pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud between 20 March 2007 and 07 May 2008. He had made £400,000. He was jailed for 4-years and 8-months.

Co-defendant Mark Carmichael, 48, of Tudor Way, Waltham Abbey who laundered some of the money pleaded guilty to converting criminal property between 16 January 2008 and 07 May 2008. He received £70,000 from Carr and was jailed for 15-months.

Michael Speak, for the Crown Prosecution Service said the case had involved a very complicated police investigation. Peter Lane and Elaine Bartlett had known Gary Carr for nearly 20-years and "had trusted him to a very high degree". He had supplied them with photocopiers, but in recent years they had been "enormously tricked and deceived by him".

He said photocopiers made by companies from suppliers such as Canon and Toshiba can cost as much as £50,000. Typically, it is not purchased direct from the manufacturer but through salesman such as Mr Carr, who would arrange the financing of the machine under a lease hire agreement over a 3-year, or more often a 5-year, period and receive a commission. Once arranged the customer would make quarterly payments over the 5-years to repay the costs, plus interest.

But, said Mr Speak, as technology improved and better machines become available, salesmen arrange for their customers to upgrade.

Both the Bartletts, through King's Music, and Peter Lane and Partners had six photocopiers arranged through Carr. When the scam was uncovered, both the Bartletts and Peter Lane had 40 lease hire agreements in force.

Carr had persuaded them to set up new finance leases for upgraded machines but had not cancelled the earlier leases. He would ask them to provide signatures on blank lease agreements with the excuse that if one application to a finance company failed he could quickly apply elsewhere.

Both the Bartletts and Peter Lane thought the existing leases would be settled. "Both companies made enormous payments. Carr repeatedly said it would be sorted out."

"There were 40 quarterly repayments when there should only have been six. Inexplicably there was a multiplicity of legally-binding lease hire agreements," said Mr Speak.

He said the machines are discounted from the manufacturers to the sales firms by as much as 50 to 60 per cent. The customer, however, pays the full recommended retail price. "When a lease hire agreement pays out an invoice it immediately produces an enormous amount of profit."

During the fraud, approximately half the leases taken out were for Canon and Toshiba copiers that did not exist. Invoices were raised and all the money was pure profit for Carr.

Mr Speak said Carmichael, who worked for a firm called Tecnico, made £70,000 in back-handers from Carr for processing the fraudulent leases. He was at a meeting at the Marriott hotel in Huntingdon where the Bartletts agreed to take out a £258,000 loan to consolidate their debts. As a result, said Mr Speak, their two adult dependent children were persuaded to waive their right of residence when a solicitor visited their home.

Mr Speak said: "He colluded with Carr in the payment of money from finance companies."

He said the face value of invoices sent to finance companies by Tecnico was £1,027,306.68p. Through a series of complex payments Carr ended up with £400,000 plus the £70,000 he gave to Carmichael.

When questioned by the police each man blamed the other for concocting invoices.

Lawrence Selby for Carr said he had a "trusting and working relationship" with the victims. He said: "The photocopying sales industry is a cut throat, dog eat dog world based on commissions.

"He does not resile from what he did. At the time he was unaware of the scale of the damage his actions could cause. He is truly sorry."

Tim Kendal, for Carmichael, said the father of three was not part of the fraud, and was involved only in money laundering. "The major spoils did not go to him," he said.

Judge Martin Griffith told Carr his victims trusted him and he had been involved in a "complex and deliberate fraud" which led to the Bartlett's business "being doomed".

He went on: "Far worse is that you knew that over many years they had two disabled children, now in their 30s, who signed away their rights to stay in their home." The judge said there should be an investigation by the Law Society into the conduct of the solicitor involved in the signing of the agreement.

A confiscation hearing will be held at a later date.

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