Thursday, 23 January 2014 14:26

From Dodgy Debt Collector to Convicted Fraudster

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Back in March of 2013 we ran an article called "Dodgy Debt Collection Agencies Liquidated" that featured the story of how the Insolvency Service had liquidated two companies run by a Mr Stuart Paul Cooper of Topping Street, Blackpool.

Then it all went quiet and we heard no mention of the name Stuart Paul Cooper until an eagle eyed reader contacted us this week.  They informed us that the infamous Mr Stuart Paul Cooper is now serving a three year jail sentence for fraud. So what happened?

In our original article we told you how the two companies run by Mr Cooper specialised in taking substantial advance fees from clients for debt recovery work.  This is known as advance fee fraud and it is categorised by a person or company taking money for a service that either doesn't exist or is never provided.

Unfortunately for one North Cornwall based developer Mr Stuart Cooper had obviously not learnt any lessons from his earlier brush with the insolvency service.  As he conned close to £160,000 from a new victim and fled to Tenerife to start a new life.

So what happened?

Mr Gareth Evans, for the prosecution, said Mr Kelly was lured into the scam when he was cold called by Cooper's company Absolute Debt Recovery Ltd in May 2012.  The unfortunate victim was director of a company that was embroiled in a dispute with the Nationwide Building Society and Nationwide had just seized the company assets in Bude.

Convicted fraudster Mr Stuart Cooper suggested to the victim that he had access to large amounts of plant and machinery being sold at a substantial discount by a company in administration.  Mr Cooper suggested a proposed sale price of £310,000 and when the victim showed the list of alleged plant to a friend in the trade he suggested the value was at least £900,000.

The victim, convinced by the claims of Mr Cooper and hopeful of a quick profit to settle his issues with Nationwide, promptly borrowed £150,000 from a friend and raised £5,000 personally.  This was duly transferred to an account under the control of Mr Cooper.

Mr Evans, prosecuting, told the court that the police would subsequently confirm this account had just £1.74 in it when the money arrived and no sooner was the victims cash paid in that it was moved out again.

Unfortunately for the victim, it transpired that this plant and machinery never existed and the pictures supplied by the criminal Stuart Cooper had been downloaded from the internet.

On the run

Mr Kelly was so convinced by fraudster Cooper that he even went to Heathrow to pick him up on his return from a supposed business trip to Malta.  Unfortunately whilst Mr Kelly waited in vain, Mr Cooper was actually fleeing to Tenerife from Manchester Airport with his partner Donna Anderson and £150,000 of someone else's money.  Within days of arriving in Tenerife Mr Cooper had put down a £20,000 deposit on a bar and appeared content to spend the rest of his days in the sun.  However Mr Kelly had other ideas.

Now aware that he had been defrauded, Mr Kelly approached the police for assistance and within days they had moved to freeze all of Mr Cooper's personal and business accounts and police in Blackpool searched his last known home and office addresses, finding both of them stripped bare.

Thankfully, the dodgy debt collector turned fraudster decided to return to the UK to complain his accounts had been frozen and was promptly arrested.  Unbelievably Mr Cooper insisted he was entitled to keep the money as the victim had not paid the full amount! However this claim carried no weight with 'the boys in blue' and Slippery Stu found himself facing charges of fraud.

In the Dock

Mr Cooper of Langford Avenue, Blackpool, admitted fraud and was jailed for three years by Judge Francis Gilbert, QC, at Exeter Crown Court on the 20th of January 2014.

The Judge told him:

jail

"You embarked on a carefully planned but obvious case of fraud against a person who came to you for help which you offered him as a debt recovery specialist."

“You realised he was gullible by reason of his desperation for help in his financial difficulties. You initiated a bogus deal which required him to make an advance of £155,000 to be paid into your bank account.

“This was supposed to enable the delivery of plant and machinery worth well in excess of that figure at a bargain price, allowing him to make a significant profit.

“He was conned by you in this outrageous fashion. He went from Cornwall to Heathrow to meet you. You even gave him the flight number, so detailed and careful was your fraud.

“You were not on that flight and were actually at another airport flying away to Tenerife, where you dissipated most of the money in the next few weeks.

“It is perfectly obvious you knew from a very early stage this was a fraud that you embarked on. You knew it was flagrant dishonesty.”

Mr David Evans Defending, said Mr Kelly had not been a naïve victim and had gone into the deal with the aim of making a fast profit. (Although how this excuses the fraudulent theft of in excess of £150k we aren't sure).

He also stated:

"He (Mr Cooper) had dreams beyond his means and he buried his head in the sand. He fell into dishonest temptation.”

And that Mr Cooper had destroyed his career in debt recovery through a single foolish act. (But you may argue that given that his previous debt recovery businesses had been wound up in the public interest, that this career was on its last legs anyway.)

Expensive Lessons

Unfortunately for the victim in this case, it doesn't appear that he took any steps to investigate the validity of the claims being made by Mr Cooper.  As in our article "Nine top tips to avoid dodgy debt collectors" we always recommend you:

  • Avoid any debt recovery company that uses cold calls or spam faxes
  • Get a credit report on the company (Absolute Debt Recovery Ltd was less than three months old when they contacted the victim)

And above all else, remember the golden rule:

  • If it seems to good to be true, it probably is!

 

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Image by flickr user RandomEcho licenced under CC BY 2.0

Original story one and two

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