County Durham internet fraudsters jailed
Published May 31, 2018 1.45pm
Brothers from County Durham who pocketed more than £600,000 from online shoppers for hot tubs, saunas and other luxury products which failed to materialise have been jailed for a combined ten and a half years.
Ross and Luke Quinn, from Coxhoe, accepted orders for goods which included sheds, saunas, furniture and ride on mowers through a number of different websites over a five year period, only for the goods to either not be delivered or in some cases arrive faulty, incomplete or different to those ordered.
In the region of 400 complaints were received from across the UK in relation to the various items, leading to a joint investigation and prosecution by Trading Standards and Durham Constabulary which concluded with the brothers being jailed and banned from being directors, on charges of fraudulent trading and tax evasion.
Teesside Crown Court heard how Ross, 30, and Luke, 27, both living at Beechfield Rise, were, from 2009 to 2014, linked to websites in the name of seven businesses which purported to sell projectors, saunas, hot tubs, tub chairs, ride-on mowers, sheds, cabins and hand dryers. These businesses included Electro Star, Planet Distributions, Red Saunas, Tub Furniture, Ride Mow, Super Hand Dryer and Tool Shed Shop.
The sentencing hearing was told how the goods were advertised at very low prices, as being in stock with a short delivery time.
The court heard that in the five year period approximately 400 complaints were received, with the total loss suffered by consumers being around £625,000.
Complaints were made to the businesses by customers that products were not being delivered. The customers were then given a range of excuses and were offered incentives for not cancelling their orders.
Prices were often then reduced on the websites, with the associated business closing down leaving consumers having to try to get their money back through their banks. This resulted in the online payment provider being out of pocket to the tune of £405,000. A new business would then emerge in some cases selling the same type of product.
With the newer websites complaints emerged of the businesses advertising as accepting card payments. The customer would then receive an email after they had placed an order telling them that payment facilities were changing with only bank transfers or cheques allowed. Incentives were again offered to customers to pay using these methods which left people without the protection credit or debit cards offer.
The investigation found that the businesses would use virtual office addresses generally based somewhere else around the UK, with addresses given at Southampton, Brighton, Newcastle, Gateshead, York, Oxford, Canterbury, Reading, Glasgow and Inverness.
Efforts were made to contact the directors of the various companies however this would be followed by the business either moving or closing down.
The Quinns' homes were raided with the brothers arrested and interviewed, before being charged with offences of fraudulent trading and tax evasion.
During the trial last year Luke Quinn pleaded guilty to one count of fraudulent trading and four counts of tax evasion. Ross Quinn pleaded guilty to one count of fraudulent trading and seven counts of tax evasion.
Ross Quinn was jailed for six and a half years and banned from being a director for 13 years and three months. Luke Quinn was given four years in prison and banned from being a director for nine.
The court heard of the failure to pay taxes due to Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs in respect of Luke totalling £62,000 and for Ross £333,000.
Speaking after the case, head of environment, health and consumer protection Joanne Waller said: "The paying public has every right to expect that items they order online will be delivered and exactly as described.
"A significant number of complaints were received from consumers either not receiving the goods they had ordered or in some cases getting faulty, incomplete or different versions of the products. The combined financial loss suffered by those online buyers was substantial.
"We do not tolerate fraudulent businesses operating from County Durham and we are therefore satisfied with the lengthy jail terms and the bans from acting as a director handed out in this case which will surely act as a deterrent to anyone thinking they can make money by fraudulent means online."
A Durham Constabulary spokeswoman said: "This was a successful joint investigation by officers from Durham Constabulary and Durham County Council's trading standards team.
"We hope this sentence acts as a deterrent for anyone who believes they are above the law and thinks they can make money fraudulently."
For advice on keeping safe online when shopping visit www.getsafeonline.org.uk