Tower Hamlets Council successfully prosecutes LGV training fraud case at the Old Bailey
A gang of fraudsters who cheated customers out of hundreds of thousands of pounds using a lorry driver training scam were sentenced at the Old Bailey.
In a case brought by Tower Hamlets Council Legal Services on behalf of the council’s Trading Standards in conjunction with the National Trading Standards Board (NTSB) funded Tri-Region Scambusters and National E-Crime Centre teams, four men have been convicted of a Large Goods Vehicle (LGV) training fraud worth over £1million.
On 24 February 2014, Mohammed Shuab Miah, 28, Ponler Street, Tower Hamlets, Mohammed Saidur Rahman, 27, of Bigland Street, Tower Hamlets and Simon Brindley, 46, of Kensington Road, South-End-on Sea, were found guilty at the Old Bailey on four counts of fraudulent trading contrary to s.993 of the Companies Act 2006. Sheikh Muhammad Osama Rahman, 27, of Penang Street, Tower Hamlets, had pleaded guilty to four fraudulent trading offences before the trial began.
A fifth defendant, Amzad Ali, 27, also from Tower Hamlets was acquitted of all charges.
At a hearing on 25 February at the Old Bailey, before Hon Judge Bevan, the following sentences were given:
Sheikh Muhammad Osama Rahman was sentenced to six years and four months imprisonment and given a 12 year Director Disqualification Order;
Mohammed Shuab Miah was sentenced to four and a half years imprisonment and a five year Director Disqualification Order;
Mohammed Saidur Rahman was sentenced to four and a half years imprisonment and a ten year director Disqualification Order;
Simon Brindley was sentenced to four and a half years imprisonment and a ten year Director Disqualification Order.
Simon Brindley had already been convicted of similar crimes by Enfield Council and had been jailed for 16 months at Wood Green Crown Court on Friday, 13 December, for his involvement with LGV training company Fast Track HGV Limited which operated from Mount Pleasant, Cockfosters.
The gang had carried out the fraud through a number of LGV training businesses based in Canary Wharf between November 2009 and September 2012. The training companies traded at various times over the period as Highway LGV Limited, LGV Specialist Limited, Blackwater LGV Limited and Quickpass LGV Limited.
Each of the companies ran by these men conned customers into paying for LGV training through a variety of false representations, including the location of training courses, the time frame within which practical training would be provided and employment prospects.
The people affected typically bought training courses to obtain a LGV license priced between £1,000-£3,000. Many of the victims were unemployed and were looking to re-train as LGV drivers in the hope of gaining new employment – those who could least afford to lose significant sums of money.
The total income of these four companies is estimated to be in excess of £1 million. There was just approximately £44,250 spent on training their customers, who had paid them in the expectation that they would receive the total training package they had paid for.
The training was supposed to cover a theory test followed by practical driving experience at specified training locations. The first part of the training was generally met with the completion of the theory element of the process, which cost the company a minimal amount to organise. The problems began when the customer wanted to book their practical training. At that point the customer would be presented with a multitude of excuses as to why the practical training could not be commenced. Examples included that the certificate confirming that the candidate had passed theory test had not been received, customer details were lost or there were strikes at the Driving Standards Agency (DSA).
The fraud was backed by sophisticated marketing in the form of very professional looking websites and brochures, giving the customer the impression that they would be dealing with a legitimate company, who would not only be able to offer training but also employment opportunities once the customer had qualified. The problem was that the training rarely materialised.
In a trial lasting six weeks, the jury heard from over 15 witnesses from all over the UK who had been duped into purchasing LGV training from the defendants. Judge Bevan described the fraud as a “cynical ploy” and later summed up by saying “On your own evidence you knew each other for years and must have known that each was prepared to act with disregard for victims. Another similarity is the desire to make easy money at the expense of other people. You are now and appear to remain contemptuous of your victims and any mitigation pales into insignificance in relation to loss deliberately caused to others” Judge Bevan also disqualified them for being company Directors for between five and 12 years describing them as “entirely unfit”.
The fraud was identified by Tower Hamlets Trading Standards following concerns about the number of complaints they were receiving about the businesses registered to the defendants. The prosecution follows a long investigation carried out by Tower Hamlets Trading Standards, which started in June 2010.
Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman, said: “This case highlights the hard work of our Trading Standards team and agency partners in pursuing consumer complaints and prosecuting perpetrators of fraud to the highest level when necessary.
“The victims of these fraudsters included the unemployed and it was despicable that they were taking money from those who need it most.”
Deputy Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Cllr Ohid Ahmed, said: “This case was a calculated and deceitful fraud which preyed upon vulnerable people. There is no place for such fraudulent trading in Tower Hamlets and Trading Standards will continue to investigate companies to the full who arouse suspicion from their customers.”
NTSB chairman, Lord Toby Harris, said “Despite facing budget cuts, trading standards have tremendous community value as they protect consumers from insidious fraudsters. Today’s sentencing shows that no matter how sophisticated the scam, trading standards professionals will bring criminals to justice.”
To report suspected training scams or concerns about a company’s trading activities contact Tower Hamlets Council’s Trading Standards Team on 020 7364 5008.